Experienced email marketers know that it’s not just about getting the job done. It’s about getting the job done right the first time. You don’t want to invest time crafting a beautiful, well-designed email campaign, hit send, and then have it land in the spam folder of your subscribers. That is not going to help you produce revenue and it will cause you to do double the work.
If you are not familiar with what an email sender score is, or why it is so important in the world of email marketing, you can compare it to a credit score. It sits on a scale of 1-100 and it can be challenging to improve, yet easy to lose points. That one single number can be a solid decision maker when webmail providers need to make a choice to land your message in the spam folder or the inbox for their users.
To put this in perspective, ReturnPath put together a 2016 Sender Score benchmark report, showing deliverability rates. Small changes in your score make big differences in your deliverability. A score that drops from 83 down to 70 can see a deliverability decrease by approximately 20%. This will lead to a huge loss of revenue. You want to make sure the job is done right the first time, and that you have layers of security in place to protect your reputation.
The first place to start is identifying your current email sender score, and then working to improve it. Luckily this information is easily accessible and FREE. You can go over to SenderScore.org and plug in your IP address to evaluate your current score.
If your score is not above 90, there is room for improvement. I’m going to share with you 6 ways you are damaging your sender score without even realizing it.
1. Collecting misspelled email addresses
It is so easy to collect invalid email addresses. On average 80% of invalid contact data is simply because of human error. Especially when the people are using mobile devices.
People who respond to emails via mobile devices often have a funny “excuse my typo” phrase in their signature line. One of my favorites on this list is “Sent from a mobile device. Erroneous words are a feature, not a typo”. Let’s not forget about the viral auto correct screenshots.
Sure, these things are funny, but when it comes to spending money on leads and getting invalid results — there is nothing funny about that.
So how does this impact your sender score?
Hard bounces make up one of the largest portions of your sender score. If the email address you have collected is not legit, you will get a failure to deliver. Most email service providers including SendInBlue will not tolerate a high hard bounce rate because you are damaging their IP reputation.
As a best practice, you can use a solution for real-time email verification to check the email address before you accept it into your marketing funnel. This way if the user has made an accidental typo they will get see an error message. The user will now have a chance to correct their mistake before moving forward.
2. Working with data brokers
Businesses often turn to data suppliers when they need new leads and new customers.
It sounds like an ‘easy choice’ because you will be able to quickly grow your list. However, the bad news is that you are not growing your list organically. Working with data brokers will not help you improve your engagement rates and you shouldn’t buy email lists.
To have good email deliverability, and improve your sender score you need to have the users engage with your emails. This means they need to open and click messages you are sending.
If you are sending to contacts you have acquired through a list broker, you will not have built up any trust with these users yet. What makes you think they are going to engage? Chances are they won’t, leaving you with a higher chance of being marked as SPAM.
Spam complaints are a big part of reducing your sender score. Each complaint you get is like sending a message directly to the ISPs that their users do not trust your company. If you get too many spam complaints with a specific ISP, they can choose to just push all of your emails directly to the spam folder. Imagine if all your YAHOO recipients never see your message from an email blast because Yahoo has decided to put you in the spam folder.
3. Failing to clean your email list
Why are you keeping old data on your email list? It’s only costing you more money to keep uninterested contacts there.
As an email marketer, it is your responsibility to regularly remove unengaged users from your list. Users who are not opening or clicking on your content can lead to bigger problems in the future that will damage your sender score.
For example, if a user has abandoned their email account, they aren’t opening your emails. This will later lead to a hard bounce. They also might not be active with your email content because they already moved you into the spam folder without your knowledge.
Pruning your list is something you should be doing on a quarterly basis (if not more frequently). If you don’t feel ready to take the leap and delete a good portion of your contacts, learn how you can segment to achieve similar benefits.
Even if you do segment your list, it’s highly likely you still have contacts which you have not emailed in several months. If this is the case, you should at least do a quarterly database clean up to identify if any email addresses have gone dormant and might lead to a hard bounce the next time you send off an email.
4. Sending poor quality content
Never compromise quality for quantity. If you slap together a poorly created email campaign, users are much more likely to complain. We already covered how spam complaints damage your sender score, and poor content gives them a reason to complain.
Things to keep in mind when creating your email content:
- Don’t oversell to your users.
- Make your email template mobile optimized.
- Don’t use spam words in your content.
- Test all of your links.
- Don’t use a bait and switch subject line.
- Format your content for readability.
5. Sending emails inconsistently
This is often overlooked by email marketers, but your email frequency matters when it comes to calculating your sender score. You need some balance when you are creating your email content calendar. If you mail too often you are annoying your users and generating complaints. But if you mail too little you are missing out on sales opportunities.
The bottom line is that if you don’t have a consistent schedule, and mail random days and times of the week instead, your users may lose interest. Marketing Sherpa published a blog post around a study done by Return Path which claimed read rates declined as send frequency increased.
As a rule of thumb, it is best to stay focused. You want to be clear up front with your users when they register to set up some expectations. This way you can indicate how many times per week they should expect to hear from you.
Another thing you want to keep in mind when considering your volume frequency is how your subscriber list is growing. A quickly growing list or adding users in bulk to your ESP doesn’t look good. It makes the appearance that you are purchasing data and not following best practices.
6. Keeping spam traps in your email list
Traps are one of the most dangerous things that can happen to your email campaign. One rotten apple can bring down the whole tree.
The problem with traps is they can directly lead you into getting blacklisted. Therefore, many marketers tend to jump ship from email platform to email platform because the black listings prevent their whole campaign from being delivered.
There are two main types of traps. Pristine traps are email addresses created by ESPs or blacklist organizers who post their email address up across the web. Most of them get into your list because they were “scraped” or “harvested”. You might not directly be scraping data from the web, but you never know if one of your data supplies has used these techniques.
The other type of trap is the recycled spam trap. These are email addresses that were once real but have been abandoned by the user. The ESP deactivates the account which should cause hard bounces for you so that you remove the user from your list.
After the email address is inactive, the ESP reactivates the account many months later. If that account is still receiving emails from you, you will be blacklisted because you have not been following best practices.
Time to Boost Your Sender Score
If you want to make the most out of your email campaigns, don’t take any shortcuts. Do the job right the first time. Make sure you are following best practices by keeping your email list healthy. Start with things that you do have control over, such as controlling the data that goes into your list.
Don’t just accept any data that attempts to register. Make sure you clean your email list on a regular basis and avoid working with data brokers. Your leads are precious and they deserve your time and attention. As your data quality improves, you can work on rebuilding your email sender score and improving your inbox deliverability.
Krista Barrack is an email verification specialist at XVerify. She helps digital marketers improve email campaign success through data verification. Outside of the office, Krista also enjoys traveling, fitness, reading, and listening to podcasts.