How to Improve Email Deliverability: 9 Quick and Easy Best Practices

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Email marketing. Love it or hate it – it works!

In fact, some statistics suggest that on average, for every $1 a business spends on emails marketing, they can expect to see a massive $42 return. With this in mind, using email marketing to promote your business and drive sales can seem like a no-brainer.

But in practice, driving big returns on email marketing requires a few things. For example, your emails must be compelling, and offer value to recipients. But they must also be relevant to those you’re sending them to. After all, sending a mass email with a fantastic deal on car leasing isn’t going to win you any work if all the recipients aren’t legally old enough to drive.

Plus, one often overlooked – but fundamentally essential – part of successful email marketing is actually making sure that your emails are being delivered.

In this guide, we’re going to walk you through 9 quick and easy tips and best practices to ensure that your emails dodge the spam folders, and ensure that your emails find their way to the inboxes of those who matter most to your business.

1

Authenticate Your Domain

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) want their customers’ lives to be spam-free. That’s why they utilise a mechanism to stop less-than-genuine emails from finding their way into their customers’ inboxes.

To ensure that your emails don’t get blocked by ISPs, you need to prove to them that you are who you say you are.

One thing that ISPs are always on the lookout for is ‘spoofing’. This is where a third party, typically a scammer, hijacks an email domain and sends emails from it. You’ve probably received at least a few of these in the past – they’re usually from legitimate brand names such as Apple, but the emails are very clearly fake.

Authenticating your email domain by enabling both a Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and Domain Keys Identifies Mail (DKIM) is one way you can show ISPs that you are who you say you are and should be trusted.

What are SPF and DKIM? Well, it’s a little complicated, but here’s a brief summary of how they work:

SPF – works by telling ISPs which IP addresses should be trusted to send emails for your domain.

DKIM – offers an encryption key/digital signature that highlights to ISPs that the email hasn’t been altered or forged.

2

Send on a Dedicated IP Address

In the last section, we covered how using an SPF can help verify the IP addresses your domain will be sending emails from. As your email list grows and you start sending high volumes of emails, you may want to consider setting up and sending your emails from a dedicated IP address.

Typically, this tip is most useful when you’re sending upwards of 10,000 emails each day.

Using one IP will help you build trust in your email marketing. However, you will also need to ‘warm up’ your IP so that you aren’t marked as suspicious by ISPs when you start sending out tens of thousands of emails on a daily basis.

3

Ensure a Proper Opt-In Process

Wouldn’t it be great if you could vote for whether an email is helpful/relevant or not? Well, you can!

When you send an email to your spam folder, you’re telling your ISP that the email is spam. This, in turn, can lead to the ISP believing that ALL the emails from that sender are spam, meaning they could block all future marketing emails from that person or business.

Following a clear opt-in process is the best way to ensure that your email list remains high quality. You must ensure that all members on your list are both aware that they signed up to receive emails from you, and that the emails you’re sending are helpful and relevant to them.

Using a double opt-in process is widely accepted as the best way to ensure you stay off the naughty (spam) list.

H&M Newsletter Sign up screenshot
An example of a double opt-in process at work on H&M's website.
4

Offer a Preference Center

So, you’ve ensured that your list is super high quality with proper opt-ins, so that means you can send endless emails to your list for the rest of time, right?

Well, not exactly.

There are several reasons you should offer your email marketing list a preference center:

  1. It allows them to easily unsubscribe if your business or content is no longer of interest to them
  2. It allows them to select how regularly they receive updates from you
  3. It allows them to select the type of content they want to receive

The goal of your preference center is to gain a much better understanding of the wants and needs of your audience. In turn, this will help you increase engagement, and limit the chances of being sent to the spam folder – both of which ISPs are noticing and basing decisions about your trustworthiness on.

The Guardian Email Preferences screenshot
The Guardian's Email Preferences Center allows your user to choose how regularly they receive updates from you, as well as select the specific types of content they want to see.
5

Limit Spam Words in Your Subject Line

When you open your email inbox, chances are you can spot a spam email a mile away. They often have subject lines that sound little like:

  • “Free gift when…”
  • “BUY NOW”
  • “Earn more with…”

There is a whole list of words that make ISPs identify your email as potential spam. Although avoiding these words altogether isn’t necessary, stuffing these words into your emails is a sure-fire way to trigger spam filters. Instead, if you have to use these words, use them sparingly and in context – you’ll be surprised how far a great subject line gets you!

It’s also best to avoid using the following in your email subject lines:

  • ALL CAPS
  • Excessive punctuation marks!!!
  • Too many emojis
  • Colorful, different-sized fonts
Spam email example screenshot
If it looks like this, well... it's probably spam.
6

Clean Your Data

When it comes to email marketing, bigger doesn’t always mean better.

Creating a small, high-quality email list will serve you much better than a large, low-quality one. After all, there’s no point sending emails to 50,000 people if not a single one of them is a legitimate potential customer.

We’ve already discussed how using a solid opt-in process can help increase the quality of your list. However, you can also take a proactive approach to improve list quality by regularly cleaning your data. Doing this may include checking and removing duplicated emails, removing unsubscribed list members, checking for obvious typos, and removing ‘spammy’ email addresses.

Cleaned Emails on Mailchimp screenshot
Some email marketing platforms, such as Mailchimp, will offer you tools to identify and remove low-quality list members.
7

Dodge Spam Traps

Don’t get caught out!

Those sneaky ISPs have a smart way of checking that you’re keeping a good quality email marketing list. This is called a spam trap, and is basically just an email address that can’t be legitimately used to opt into your list.

So, if your marketing emails find their way into the inbox of one of these spam traps, the ISP will know that you aren’t following a strict opt-in policy, and will immediately direct your future marketing emails into spam folders.

How do you avoid this? It’s simple – keep a clean list!

8

Focus on Delivering Quality Emails

Keeping your email marketing data clean is the first step to avoid your emails getting sent straight to the spam folder. Another step you can take is ensuring that you’re only ever sending emails that are legitimately interesting, helpful, and valuable to your audience.

By providing as much value as possible with every email you send, the recipients are more likely to engage with your content. Not only is this a good way to impress ISPs, but there are other clear benefits when it comes to converting your email list into paying customers.

Example of a good news letter from Shopify screenshot
This piece of email marketing from Shopify is an excellent example of how increased quality leads to increased deliverability.
9

Send Emails Consistently

How often should you send marketing emails?

The answer – it depends.

Typically, sending one high-quality marketing email a week is regular enough to ensure familiarity, whilst not being so frequent that you become a nuisance. However, this isn’t always true. For example, a news or media site may send daily updates or briefings. Alternatively, a business in a slow-moving industry may send out one monthly newsletter to ensure that their email always contains high levels of value.

What’s most important is ensuring consistency in your email marketing. If you usually send one email a week, and then suddenly start sending three emails a day, you’re probably going to frustrate some people, and end up getting bumped into spam.

Finding the best time to send your emails – and sending emails consistently on this basis – will also help you get your email noticed by more recipients, and when they’re at their most engaged.

Improving Email Deliverability: Summary

Improving your email deliverability is a great way to ensure that you can continue leveraging the benefits of email marketing, and generate a strong ROI for your business.

Here is a super-quick summary of all the ways you can boost email deliverability:

How to Improve Email Deliverability

  1. Authenticate your domain with SPF and DKIM
  2. Send emails from a dedicated IP address
  3. Ensure list quality with a strong opt-in process
  4. Allow list members to set email preferences
  5. Limit the use of spam words in your subject lines
  6. Keep your data clean
  7. Don’t get caught in spam traps (only send to people who have opted in)
  8. Send quality emails
  9. Send consistent emails

So there you have it – nine simple ways to improve email deliverability. What are you waiting for? Go get sending – now!