How To Guarantee Effective Email Campaign Delivery
In this article, I will discuss the steps for creating an email campaign and the factors and challenges around email campaign deliverability. It is important to identify what factors can affect your email being delivered to your recipients’ inbox and how to manage your campaigns before and after sending them to ensure that they are as effective as possible.
Now that we have had a look at the components of an effective email and the main elements to consider in your email strategy, we can apply these to creating an email campaign. Starting from scratch can seem a little daunting, but following a few basic steps can help you on your way to hitting that send button.
Here are the steps for creating an email campaign:
#1 Identify the need for an email
Here you need to decide why you are sending the email and who you are sending it to. Is it a welcome email to new subscribers who have just signed up to your mailing list? Are you running a special advertising campaign to existing customers or do you want to offer sharable content to your product evangelists? Here is where you define the goals of your email campaign. What do you want to achieve?
#2 Define campaign requirements
This is the plan or strategy for your email campaign. It should include your campaign goals, the tone of your email, how you are going to personalize the email, what segment or list you are sending it to, what the subject line and preview text will be, how you will layout and design the email, what your message is and how you are going to test the email. This campaign requirements document keeps you and your team on the same page regarding the scope of the email campaign.
#3 Write email copy and imagery
Using the campaign requirements document as a guide, you can draft your email copy, CTAs and imagery. As you have just seen in the section on email design, your email should provide value, be engaging, stick to the point, be relevant and personalized for the recipient and have powerful CTAs and imagery that drive action and conversions.
#4 Add copy and imagery to an email template
Now that you have your email drafted, you can copy your text and design into an email template. You can use ESPs such as Mail Chimp, Get Response and AWeber to access ready-made and themed email templates.
#5 Set up tracking and add to email
As we have seen in email design, you can add pixel tracking just before the closing body tag of an email to generate analytics and data on open rates and click-throughs. Most email marketing ESPs will have tracking settings that can be applied to your email campaigns.
#6 Test your email
This step is critical to the success of your email. Your email might look amazing in the ESP you created it in, but its delivery may vary across different email clients. Carry out the email tests you decided on in your campaign requirements document and tweak your email accordingly.
#7 Email checklist
It is important to double-check all requirements have been met before you send your email campaign. This will help you to avoid those panic moments when you realize you have just sent an email to the wrong list or with typos, without a CTA or all of the above.
#8 Send your email
After you have created, designed, tested, revised and double-checked everything, you are now ready to send your email!
#9 Analyze your results
Use your ESP reporting features to see how your email campaign has performed. Wait a few days for data to accumulate and then explore who engaged with your email, how many readers are using mobile devices, how successful your CTA and subject line was and which email clients are most popular with your readers.
Here in this article, you will see a video with a walkthrough of how to create a simple email campaign in Mail Chimp covering steps 2, 3, 4 and 8. Mail Chimp offers free accounts that are very easy to set up. Click on the link in the References section to sign up to a forever free Mail Chip account. You will need an email domain that can be verified by Mail Chimp.
After setting up your Mail Chimp account, before starting your email campaign you will need to import your subscriber list/contacts. Click on this link for more information: Import a subscribers list.
Steps for creating an email campaign in Mail Chimp:
1.Click Create Campaign.
2.Click Create an Email.
3.Enter a campaign name and click Begin.
4.Click setup and design to choose your settings and design your content.
5.Add your recipients in the To section:
- In the List drop-down menu, choose the list you want to send to
- In the Segment drop-down menu, choose All subscribers on the list, Group or new segment, or one of the available saved or pre-built options.
- Click Save
6.Add From Name and From Email Address.
7.Click on Verify, Mail Chimp will send a verification code to your email address, copy and paste the code as instructed
8.Add your subject line in the Subject section and then add your preview text in the preview text area (optional and allows for 150 characters)
9.Design the content for your campaign:
- In the Content section of the Campaign Builder, click Design Email.
- Choose a template to start with: You’ll see five categories of templates: Layouts, Themes, Saved, Campaigns, and Code your own.
- After you complete your design, click Save and Continue.
10.Preview and Test your email: Click on the drop-down menu to Enter preview mode, Send a test email, Push to mobile, Open Link Checker, or customize Social Cards.
If you want to enable tracking:
1.Navigate to the Setup step of the Campaign Builder.
2.Scroll to the Tracking section.
3.Check or uncheck the Track clicks box to activate or deactivate click tracking.
4.To manage click tracking in the plain-text version of your campaign, check or uncheck Track plain-text clicks.
5.As each task is completed, a green checkmark will appear next to the corresponding section.
To send your campaign you can click on send or schedule when you want to send it.
When creating your email campaign, it is important to track email engagement. Mail Chimp allows you to see if subscribers have clicked links in your campaign by clicking on Track clicks in the ‘Settings and Tracking’ section. Your campaign report will show which subscribers clicked your links and how many times each link was clicked.
Enabling the setting for Track opens will allow you to see who opened your emails. Mail chimp embeds an invisible graphic at the bottom of the HTML email and is unique to each campaign you send. When a recipient’s email client has view images setting enabled and opens your email, the graphic is downloaded from Mail Chimps server and is counted as an open in your campaign reports.
We will explore email testing in more detail in the next section, but for now, here is a quick look at testing features available within Mail Chimp.
You can preview and test your email in the design section of the campaign builder to give you an idea of how your campaign will look in your subscribers’ inbox. As you can see from the Preview and Test dropdown menu on the screenshot, you can preview the email, send a test email, push the email to mobile, open the link checker and customize social cards.
MailChimp automatically includes both an HTML version and a plain-text alternative version for each of your subscribers. This ensures your subscribers view your content as expected, regardless of the email client or program they use.
Let’s say you have crafted the perfect email copy, design and you have tailored it towards the appropriate segment list, but it doesn’t make it to the recipients’ email client. This means there was a deliverability issue and the user will never receive the email. Getting your email into your subscriber’s inbox is the only way to get recognized, get opens and ultimately convert.
Deliverability is often confused with Inbox placement. Delivered describes how many emails were completely transferred to the intended recipient’s mailbox provider, this does not mean that the email made it to the recipient’s inbox. Inbox placement refers to where the email ended up once it was accepted.
The email could have landed in promotions, social, junk, or any other folder created. “Deliverability rate” refers to the percentage of your emails that are delivered to your subscribers, but “delivered” also includes emails sent to the spam or bulk folder. If an email makes it through all the servers, and past the ISP filters, doesn’t bounce and finally reaches the subscriber’s email account, it is considered to have been “delivered”. “Delivered” does not specify which folder the email ends up in.
Let’s take a look at the factors that can affect getting your email delivered and what you can do to help ensure your emails arrive to the intended recipients’ mailbox. This happens before the inbox or spam folder placement.
In the next few slides we will cover:
1.Sending without custom authentication
2.Using single opt-in
3.Sending from a free domain email address
4.Using unclear or spam flagging subject lines
5.Sending emails with too many images
6.Using URL shorteners
The first factor is sending an email without custom authentication which can affect the deliverability of the email.
By putting verified Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) settings in place, receiving mailboxes have some verifiable information to cross-reference with your email campaigns and determine if your email is the real deal or fraudulent. Gmail cites authentication as one of their top recommendations for getting your email delivered.
Internet service providers use DKIM and SPF authentication to scan emails and fake senders. If the email fails to authenticate it could arrive in the users’ spam/junk folder.
For example, when an email is sent from @DigitalMarketingInstitute.com, the receiving mail server will ask to see the SPF record of the allowed IP address that can send for the DMI domain. If the IP the email came from is different to what’s in the SPF record, the email will be blocked. DKIM is an additional way to sign your emails that will allow the recipient’s server check if the sender was really you or not. This prevents malicious senders from using other companies domain name to send an email.
Your IT team and email service provider can help set up this authentication.
Using a single opt-in rather than a double opt-in can affect the deliverability of an email. Double opt-in means that after a user signs up for your email list, they are sent a confirmation email asking them to confirm their email address is valid and that they want to subscribe.
- Protects against incorrect sign-ups. If a user didn’t really want to sign up for your email list they still have the last change by not confirming.
- Reduces spambots. A malicious spambot can’t sign up thousands of fake accounts to your list without verifying each email individually.
- More effectively build your sending reputation. Because spambots can’t easily sign up, you know that your recipients are really users who are more likely to engage with your content.
In the above example, when you signup for a Spotify account, they send you a confirmation email that you must click before your account is activated. This ensures that all email addresses they have in their contact database are valid.
Using a from an address that is a domain other than your own is a big no-no. Similarly, using a free domain email address such as Hotmail, Yahoo or Gmail is also a bad idea.
Be sure to use address domains or authenticated sub-domains that your recipients expect to hear from as they:
- Help prevent ISP filters from blocking your emails: If your email came from a Gmail address, ISPs would have no way of verifying who you are, and are more likely to block your email.
- Are instantly recognizable to your recipients: By using your companies domain name, the recipient can easily recognize that the email is from you which will lead to greater open rates.
- Help build the sending reputation for your domain: If you used a different domain name for every email campaign, then the mail servers wouldn’t recognize you and may block your email.
Another factor that can cause deliverability issues is having unclear or spam flagging subject lines. If your subject line makes your email look like spam then people and the spam filters ISPs that are put in place to protect them will probably think that it’s spam.
In the last section, we looked at best practices for writing compelling subject lines, but here are some to avoid when writing them:
- Avoid using ALL CAPITALS
- Avoid excessive and unnecessary use of punctuation (!!!)
- Use symbols and special characters sparingly, and only when relevant
The subject line in the image above is an example of what not to write. It has all three issues and there is a strong chance an ISP will think it’s spam and not deliver the message to the recipient.
Sending emails with too many images can affect the deliverability of an email. A historic spam technique sends emails containing only one image, or many images and very little text in HTML emails, in order to bypass spam filters that were based primarily on spam keywords.
While the above example is a legitimate email from GAP, spam filters cannot read the text that is in an image. Therefore, if you have a lot of images in your emails, you will want to make sure there is also text to support them so that spam filters know it’s a legitimate email.
Image to text ratio is important with spam filters and is something you will want to spend time getting right. Having too many images may cause the email to get caught by spam filters.
The last factor that can affect email deliverability is the use of URL shorteners. A URL shortener is a service that takes a URL, such as a long URL link to a blog post, and then makes a shorter version of the link e.g. bit.ly/1234.
The use of a URL shortener is a notorious technique used by spammers to hide the nature of URLs they link to. They rank high on spam filters, even if the links themselves are legitimate.
Where possible when using URL shorteners:
- Avoid general URL shorteners
- Avoid inserting the full URL link as text
- Create a hyperlink with the appropriate text
- Ensure all your links go to legitimate domains
The image above is an example of a malicious email. The email pretends to be from Amazon but to obscure the name they use a zero instead of an O in the “from” name, but also use a URL shortener. This is to hide where the links really go to and avoid being picked up by spam filters.
We have just covered the factors that affect getting your emails delivered, next we will take a look at some of the challenges that can affect the inbox placement of your email. This means the mail server has accepted your email but needs to decide where to place the email (inbox, spam, promotions etc.)
The main challenges when delivering marketing emails to your audience include:
Let’s take a look at each one in more detail.
I know you might agree with some of the points that I have raised in this article. You might not agree with some of the issues raised. Let me know your views about the topic discussed. We will appreciate it if you can drop your comment. Thanks in anticipation.
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