You’ve got a really great message and you’ve copy edited your newsletter 19 times. It’s flawless, impactful and an absolute sales magnet. But what if nobody ever sees it? No matter how great it is, it’s not going to do you a bit of good if it doesn’t get delivered and then opened!

According to Jupiter media “Costs of incorrectly blocked opt-in email will rise to $419 million in 2008“… So let’s go over some basics to make your email marketing reach it’s target.

How do you tell if your emails are getting through?

Lots of perfectly legitimate email gets blocked for spam at the server. Services like Delivery Watch can help evaluate this. They’ll give you a list of emails to test send to and then let you know if the messages got through to popular services like Yahoo, Gmail and even AOL.

What’s your sender reputation?

Sender reputation is based on a lot of factors. The volume of email you send for one. If your sending patterns have big spikes of sends in them or basically send nothing and then send a ton of emails in one day is a red flag that you’re not really using the account for anything but marketing (translated as spam).

Too many bounces

If you don’t keep your email list cleaned of bounces (emails that get returned as un-deliverable) shows the quality of your data about your list is not first rate.

Complaint rate

If you’re getting reported as a spammer it’s just not good. Sure some are what the industry calls “lazy un-subscribes” where people just don’t want to make the effort to un-subscribe through the regular channels. It’s best to make sure it’s VERY easy to un-subscribe and give users a way to talk back to you so they don’t feel the need to report you.

Spam trap addresses

A spam trap address is created so any e-mail that goes to that address is labeled as spam. Email accounts that are dormant or full mailboxes will often bounce back. These should be deleted from your list. Another type of address, sometimes called a “honey pot” is an address posted on a web site to hold off site scrapers who harvest email addresses and then re-sell them as “top lists”. If you buy these lists you can un-wittingly add them to your own list.

Spam Assassin

This is a wonderful piece of software and it protects something like 75% of incoming mail at the user level. If you’re feeling particularly geeky, take a look at their email testing rules and see how your messaging compares.

Link shorteners

Sites like tinyurl.com and bit.ly are great resources for sharing links on social media sites, but including them in your emails can get them blocked by spam filters. They simply make it harder for the tools to see what you’re linking to, so they just tag it as spam. Use Long URLs whenever possible.

Best practices:

  • Every single email on your list MUST opt-in. If you add emails to a list send them a message asking them to approve it before you send to them
  • Don’t buy e-mail lists. It’s just asking for trouble.
  • Regularly “groom” your email list of bounces
  • Avoid “trigger words” like FREE!, BUY NOW! “As seen on…” Cialis, Viagra, Vicodin…you get the picture?
  • Avoid all caps or shouting messages
  • Be careful with font colors. Putting white text on a white background is a classic spam trick.
  • Use MX Toolbox to find out if your email server is blacklisted
  • Don’t leave more than 50% of blank lines in the body of your message. This tells the filters you’re not sending a message with rich, engaging content.
  • Put full contact information in the footer of every email
  • Show a sample email at sign-up so people know what they are getting (this is reported to increase open rates too)
  • Send your newsletter through a verified sender. You can do this with clients like Mailchimp, iContact, AWeber etc.
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