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How 4 Small Steps Make a Big Difference in Email Deliverability

I suspect you’d be hard-pressed to find someone more data-driven than growth and email marketers. That empirical quality is one reason marketers love email. It’s a powerful tool for driving user engagement and bottom-line results, and it’s rich with data. Metrics like inbox placement and deliverability are essential to understanding campaign performance.

Too often, though, email deliverability feels like a black box. Marketers put their messages in, something happens, and a portion of those messages end up in their customers’ inboxes. Deliverability can be a tricky thing to measure. What happened to the rest? Why didn’t they arrive? Is there anything marketers and their teams can do to improve the result?

Those sometimes frustrating challenges are something our team at SparkPost knows something about—our technology delivers more than 25% of the world’s non-spam email. We’ve seen up close what senders can do to make improvements in their inbox deliverability.

There’s no silver bullet that will guarantee inbox placement, but making small changes at different steps can make a huge difference. Consider just four of these issues.

1. Choosing the right sending and bounce domains

Establishing a sending domain is an important first step when setting up your email programs. Sending domains reinforce the trust your customers have for your brand—and help ISP mailbox providers understand your sending patterns.

When selecting a sending domain, it’s key to select a domain that matches your brand and purpose for the message. A few guidelines for selecting a sending domain include:

  • Use a sub-domain of your primary web domain whenever possible.
  • Use a sub-domain that makes its purpose clear, for example:;
  • Use different domains for different types of mail, for example: separate newsletters, sales and offers, and transactional messages into separate domains.

2. Warming up new IP addresses

Many marketers have heard about the role their IP addresses play in getting messages to the inbox. And it’s true—a “good IP” can make a difference. But in order to realize the benefit of a dedicated address on deliverability, it’s important to properly plan for it.

IP warming is the process of methodically adding campaign volume week-over-week to a new address to establish a positive sending reputation. The more consistent you are with volume, frequency, complaint and bounce levels, the faster you will establish a positive sending reputation.

3. Making sure email authentication is properly configured

Configuring email authentication is an important part of building a trustworthy sending domain. Email authentication makes your domain and IP more difficult to forge or “spoof” by spammers and phishers. Setting up SPF, DKIM, and DMARC for your sending domain is essential for protecting your sending reputation, your brand—and your customers.

Increasingly, ISPs such as Gmail, Microsoft, and Yahoo are using email authentication to help determine delivery, as they want to protect their users from potentially malicious mail.

4. Letting go of unengaged subscribers

Suppression lists generally contain addresses that explicitly should be blocked from your system. But deliverability also is affected by how engaged your recipients are with your messages: do they open them? Do they click on your links? ISP mailbox providers increasingly use machine learning to use those sorts of signals to determine whether your email is wanted—or perhaps should be filed as spam.

Sometimes it’s just better to end the relationship and part ways on good terms. One best practice is to ask: send a message asking the recipient if they’re still interested in receiving your emails. If they say yes, great! If they actively decline, add them to your suppression list. And if you don’t get a response, be disciplined about removing recipients who don’t have a history of opening your messages.

But wait, there’s more!

These four tips can make a big difference in your email deliverability and inbox placement. But they’re just the start.

Want to learn more? SparkPost’s email experts share hard-won lessons about improving inbox performance in “10 Steps to Great Email Deliverability.” It’s a practical guide aimed at helping marketing and other teams that rely on email get over the hurdle of where to begin to make a difference in email deliverability.

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