5 Things You Can Do to Make Sure Your Emails Hit the Inbox

What are the top 5 things that you know for sure affect the ability of emails to hit the inbox which a user has control over?

Mailchimp regularly holds Ask Me Anything sessions just for their partners. In this post I share some insights from the AMA on email deliverability.

Matthew Grove, Senior Engineering Manager of the Delivery Team at Mailchimp, answered the question, “What are the top 5 things that you know for sure affect the ability of emails to hit the inbox which a user has control over? Does sending to non-engaged subscribers, a high unsubscribe rate, low open and click rates or the HTML code used in an email affect deliverability?”

Matthew-Grove-Senior-Engineering-Manager-at-Mailchimp
Matthew Grove, Senior Engineering Manager at Mailchimp

1. Set the right expectations before signup

Matthew said, “Let your readers know exactly what they’re signing up for, and then meet those expectations consistently.”

I like to take that 1 step further.

Everyone should have a welcome email if not a welcome email series. And the first email you send, #1 of your welcome email, should lay out your email schedule and topics.

But even before a welcome email, before someone types their email address on your subscription form you can tell them what to expect… Sign up for our weekly emails or our monthly newsletter. It’s one more word on the subscription form, but it will inform your readers as to how often they’ll receive an email from you.

2. Set up custom authentication (DKIM) with Mailchimp.

From Matthew, “You’ll need to set up custom authentication (DKIM) with Mailchimp to allow us to send on your behalf, but it’s worth it.”

Holy moly! I can’t stress enough how important it is to authenticate your domain with Mailchimp. And this is a bit scary to do because you’re adding text to your domain name server. It’s not anywhere anyone who owns a website goes on a regular basis, there’s always a fear you’ll do it wrong and break something. There are lots of videos of how to do this with each specific DNS provider and Mailchimp.

Check out this video from my friend Gary. He shows how to authenticate your domain with GoDaddy.

Matthew stressed that links can push your email into the spam filter. “Whenever I’ve done manual content testing, 90% of the time, the email was going to spam because of a problematic link visible in the plain-text portion of the email.”

This one blew my mind a little because I don’t use link shorteners like bit.ly, but spammers do. Google Search may also penalise websites that use link shorteners.

What to do? Use a button for your link. A button is easier to use on a mobile device than a text link and it hides an ugly URL. Or use text that you link your long, ugly URL to.

4. Ask questions and request replies

This one is music to my ears!

“I’ve only heard this explicitly about Gmail, but getting replies to your campaign sends a very strong reputation signal. I don’t know Gmail’s algorithm, obviously, but that might be the highest form of engagement.” ~ Matthew Grove

Email is a conversation, a dialogue between 2 people. It’s only natural that an email is sent and then a reply is sent.

But we don’t run our email newsletters and eblasts this way. From what Matthew said we need to look at how our emails can again become a conversation instead of a sermon.

5. Read the bounce notices that come into your inbox

“It’s a time suck, but it can be worthwhile to read some of your bounce messages. Certain bounce messages contain helpful info like, “Message blocked due to spam content in the message” or “Spam detected by a content scanner. Message rejected,” which can be very helpful.”

As a consultant I get people asking me to fix their email delivery issues, and as a consultant I love bounce notices. They’re easy to read, once you get into the nitty gritty of the notice and tell you exactly why your email wasn’t delivered.

Email Opens

Issues with low email opens can be baffling. Is your subject line not enticing or are your emails not hitting the inbox and going to spam?

Here’s where you need to monitor your emails. Where are they landing in your inbox? Are they in spam? (They could be if you’re sending to and from the same domain name.) Or are the getting stuck in a corporate spam filter and not making it into your inbox at all?

Lots and lots of reasons your emails may not be delivered and why they may not be opened.

Here Matthew talks about subscribers that aren’t opening your emails, at all.

“Sending to non-engaged subscribers isn’t an issue until it is. In the absence of an active deliverability problem, those unengaged subscribers are not concerning.

Once your opens decline or you’ve confirmed your email is going to spam, take a more critical eye to your unengaged subscribers.

I believe Gmail has confirmed that, while, of course, being actively moved to the spam folder is bad, delivering again and again and again to the spam folder is digging that reputation hole even deeper.”

How do you fix this? Start sending to only the people that do open your email. Get that trust back with inbox providers like Gmail and Yahoo. Then after you’ve raised your open rate, try a reengagement campaign.

Email Clicks

“Clicks are a great sign of engagement, but they’re more for you. Clicks can help you measure how effectively your content is driving actionable results. Inbox providers, as far as I know, don’t or can’t track clicks.”

While I instinctively knew this I wasn’t completely 100% sure of it. So it was great for Mailchimp to confirm this.

Clicks can tell you how engaged your audience is with the content you’re providing. But clicks are just a place to start. Did readers take an action after they clicked? Did they purchase or take the survey?

There are lots of reasons people make the initial click and then quit. Look at the steps between the initial click and the action you want people to take see why people aren’t acting.

Make sure your emails hit the inbox

Thank you so much, Matthew! So much great advice right from the head engineering chimp! I’m so excited to know that most of my assumptions are correct.

I’m going to work harder to get replies from newsletters and email blasts. While I knew replies were a factor I didn’t know how much they impacted a list’s trustworthiness.

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