3 Tips to Improve E-mail Delivery Rates

Ian Lurie

I just sent out a small, targeted e-mail to about 1400 bloggers, regarding the event I’m streaming next week. I needed to keep the message out of spam mail boxes as much as possible. Here are 3 things you can do to accomplish the same thing:

  1. Whitelist: Ask list subscribers to add the ‘from’ address for your list to their address book. Most e-mail software will automatically not flag known addresses as spam. So, provide whitelisting instructions to your users. Something as simple as “Please add ‘[email protected]’ to your address book’ will do the trick. This improves delivery by at least 15% across all of the ‘house’ e-mail lists my company manages for clients.
  2. Track bounces: Make sure you are notified when an e-mail doesn’t arrive at its destination. These ‘bounces’ will often come back to an address you specify. Many of these bounces may be e-mail systems asking for a human verification that you’re not a spam server cranking out cialis ads. If you click the ‘verify your address’ link, then future messages will arrive in the user’s inbox. I’ve seen this improve delivery by as much as 10%.
  3. Use a plain text e-mail, or at least minimize images. An e-mail that’s all or mostly images will likely get flagged as spam. I can’t point to any hard evidence of this, but years of experience has shown me that text e-mails perform better, as far as deliverability.

There are higher-tech issues, such as IP address ‘blacklists’, too. But the above 3 tips will help a lot. Plus, it’s Saturday night, and there’s no way I’m getting that technical on a Saturday night.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at www.ianlurie.com

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  1. These are good points, but you left out the most important one: the subject line. Extreme care should be taken here since it strongly influences open rates.

  2. Nice tips!
    However, I would replace #3 with “Use a reputable email service provider”
    Nowadays, sender reputation is much more important than the actual content. A reputable email service provider is not only likely to come with a great sender reputation, but also enables you to send out a multi-part email, both HTML and text, which is less likely to get filtered, plus gives subscribers their preferred format (since it’s auto-sensing).

  3. >Nowadays, sender reputation is much more important than the actual content.
    To be precise, 83% of the time, sender reputation is the cause of filtering (according to ReturnPath). If you’re interested in checking your Email Service Provider’s delivery success rate, it’s called a “SenderScore” and you can look up different servers at SenderScore.org for free by typing in the domain name of your ESP. The best score is 100.
    (Make sure you’re checking the servers that actually send email for the ESP’s customers. Some internal servers that send corporate mail have low ratings or aren’t rated at all. You can sort the list of servers by score so you can make sure the ESP has a good number of highly-rated servers.)

  4. Excellent points, however one of our marketing guys always goes on about how the actual content in the email if wrote correctly reduces the email going into the spam filter. pretty sure if you do a search on “best content to reduce spam” it will improve your chances of having your email delivered.

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