May 11, 2016

Rob’s Guide to Email Deliverability

One of my audiences is people who use the marketing automation system Infusionsoft.

I spend a bit of time each week on the Infusionsoft forums. Infusionsoft seems to have had email deliverability problems in the past, so the topic of deliverability crops up a lot.

This might be a slight exaggeration but I believe most of the people complaining about deliverability need to take a look in the mirror at their own engagement rates.

I use Gmail to manage my personal email. I use my own domain plugged in to Google Apps, but my incoming personal emails all pass under Gmail’s beady eye.

Systems like Gmail pay close attention to what you are opening and engaging with. If you email me and I consistently open and read your emails Gmail will start to mark your messages as ‘important’.

Important emails

The yellow shield indicates that a message is important based on past interactions with the sender.

The ultimate answer to deliverability problems is to get people opening and clicking your emails. When your audience engage regularly with your emails it teaches their email systems to treat your messages with greater care.

Having said that there are some additional tips:

1. Simple emails get through more regularly

Marketing emails that arrive looking like a personal email (like this one) are more likely to be delivered than image-heavy emails. If your email looks like it has been ripped directly from your marketing brochure it is less like likely to be delivered.

Your recipients do not care what your email looks like, or how pretty it is. Nobody cares about appearance except you. Most people read emails on their phone now anyway, and are only interested in the content.

2. HTML emails should be mobile responsive

All HTML emails should be mobile responsive. Most modern email marketing platforms do this automatically. If you use Infusionsoft you need to use the new beta email builder. Which, as an aside, is about 1000 times better than the old one.

3. Too many links is bad

The more links your email contains the less likely it is to be delivered. I have only recently taken my own medicine on this and removed all the additional links from my email footers.

I did a bit of testing on this. You might find it comforting to know that nobody clicks on those links anyway.

4. Large font sizes and too much bold text is bad

Large headlines are in general a bad idea. As is large amounts of bolded text. Stick to normal size, black text, using a standard font. Arial, Helvetica, Trebuchet, Verdana are all fine choices. These emails are in Verdana.

Stick to one font throughout your email, even if you do choose to include larger headings.

Bolding occassional words and sentences for emphasis is not a problem, but don’t bold entire paragraphs.

5. Send emails in a two-part MIME format

Your emails should go as both HTML and plain text, which in technical mumbo-jumbo is called two-part MIME.

Tools like Mailchimp and Aweber do this automatically. If you use Infusionsoft you need to use the new beta email builder (hint hint). Which, as an aside, is about 1000 times better than the old one.

Wait, did I already said that?

5. Use a consistent sender name and sender address

All of my marketing emails come from, with the sender name set as Rob Drummond. I operate a mostly personal brand, so am happy with simply using my name in the from field. If you work for a bigger company then your company name should usually be the sender name.

If you want to use a person’s name it is also okay in my book to use a pen name. I used to work for a company where we set all of the marketing emails as coming from David Hunter, regardless of who wrote the email. This made sense because marketing staff would come and go, but David Hunter would always be around.

If anyone ever phoned up for David Hunter he was of course always in a meeting. Busy chap.

I don’t think it is unethical to do this, as long as everyone is drilled on how to deal with enquiries that come in for your pen name. We had a placement student accept a call for David Hunter once and pretend to talk like a pirate.

You might want to still include your company name separated by a pipe sign, i.e. David Hunter | Confusion Clinic.

The most important thing about sender name and address is it should be the same every time.

6. Get contacts to confirm their email address

If nothing else this shows Gmail, or Outlook, or whatever email system your recipient is using that your reader has seen and engaged with at least one of your emails. This is the first micro-step towards getting your messages marked as important.

It also highlights early on to a recipient whether there is a problem with your emails appearing in the spamĀ folder or the promotions tab.

I provide readers with instructions on how to ‘whitelist’ me if my emails show up in these places.

While I send out double opt-in confirmations but don’t require that people confirm. If a new contact ignores my confirmation request for an hour I will still send them whatever they opted in for.

I don’t have an exact number to hand but most people do confirm their email.

The thing I want to stress about deliverability is it isn’t just down to Aweber, or Infusionsoft, or whoever to deliver your emails. You can’t just send any old shit out and then bitch in the forums that Infusionsoft isn’t delivering your emails.

Infusionsoft probably is delivering your emails, it is probably your sender reputation that sucks.

Adrian Savage, who knows far more about email delivery than I do, has put together a comprehensive guide on email delivery. If you would like more information you should download his guide.

Rob Drummond

Rob Drummond runs the Maze Marketing Podcast and Maze Mastery. Rob specialises in content production, ad creation, storytelling and CRM systems. He has two published books, Magnetic Expertise and Simple Story Selling, affordable on Amazon.