8 Misconceptions on Email Deliverability

Email deliverability has a lot of misconceptions.  Here are common assumptions that trainers, consultants, and professional coaches make that are often untrue:

  1. The bigger I can get my list, the more money I will make from it.
    A large list might make you feel better, but unless all of the people on it want to be there, the size of your list could actually be losing you money. First, you are paying to send information to people who don’t respond to it. The old and unresponsive names on your list are turning into spam trap complaints, ruining your IP reputation and degrading your delivery and deliverability potential.
  2. “Report as SPAM” is just a lazy way to unsubscribe
    People click this button because they don’t see the value of your email. Some people believe this is the only way to safely unsubscribe. Treat SPAM complaints as an aggressive unsubscribe.  Obviously you shouldn’t continue to email them but also take stock of how many unsubscribers are actually filing SPAM complaints.  Too many of these will begin to work against your deliverability.
  3. I need to have 100 percent deliverability rate all of the time.
    For the most part, this is simply unattainable. But, you – not the ISP – have complete control over this metric. If you keep your lists extremely clean and your audience is actively engaged with your email marketing campaign, you will have a great IP reputation and outstanding delivery rates and inbox presence.
  4. ISPs should care that my email gets through because we are not Spammers.
    ISP’s don’t care about brands or intentions.  They analyze what you do, not what you say you’ll do.  If the people on your list have asked to be there and are interacting with your mail, it will get delivered. If you are bulk sending questionable content then it will get blocked.
  5. My list wants to hear from me all the time, even if they never open or click on my mail.
    Put yourself in your audiences shoes.  Even if they love the content of your email there is a limit to frequency.  The absolute maximum you should be sending emails to your audience is twice a week.  For most trainers, consultants, and professional coaches it’s likely to be monthly to weekly.
  6. I can make my email look transactional and send it to anyone, even people who unsubscribed.
     In the U.S., sending transactional messages containing content that you need to tell people (order/shipping confirmations, order status updates, warrantee, or legal notices) does not require suppressing opt-outs. Further, including commercial content in transactional messages can be done and is often very effective. For example, messages that are sent to remind people that they forgot to buy something are most likely considered commercial and need to have opt-outs suppressed. Pretending this is transactional content will potentially raise enough complaints to instigate deliverability or even legal issues.
  7. Just because it’s legal, it’s OK to do it.
    There are tricks to bend the letter of the law on SPAM.  That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to use them. The goal is to send communications to people that will get value from them.  Treat your audience with respect and tell them targeted and intelligent things. They will reward you with their continued business.
  8. I bought a list of 100 million names, this will really increase the value of my lists
    Buying a credible list is difficult.  Even good lists will not contain engaged prospects and customers.  It’s basically a crap shoot on whether there will be any interest at all and response rates will be much lower.  These lower rates can be damaging to deliverability as it typically produces a wave of unsubscribes and SPAM reports.  That’s a best case scenario with a good list.  Imagine how much damage a list obtained by an unreputable source can do.

Monitor Bounces: Email

Like websites, there’s a temptation to look at the positive metrics rather than improving negative ones.  Bounces from email is a great indicator of list health.

An email campaign that has a low bounce rate (under 10%) is often a well built list that is regularly maintained.  The benefit of this is that it usually reflects audience engagement.  Poorly built lists can see bounce rates approach 50%.  This is typically a sign of poorly compiled lists or a build up of bad addresses over an extended period.

Monitoring your bounce rate has a few benefits:

  • It let’s you know if your list quality is acceptable (going over 20% bounce rates is a sign of trouble).
  • It makes maintenance a recurring task so that bad email addresses can be removed.  This often saves money on your email list provider as the list or emails sent gets smaller.
  • It gives an idea of true audience so if your list begins to shrink then efforts to boost subscribers can be launched.

Don’t just focus on the positive metrics like opens and clicks.  Keeping an eye on who isn’t getting your email communications can be as informative as knowing who does.

Buying or Renting Email Lists

It’s not uncommon for people to want to infuse their email list with a batch of new people.  The stock answer from email marketers (myself included) is to gradually and methodically build a list.  Use your network of contacts and regular business interactions to build up a legitimate opt-in email marketing list.  However, some people are in a hurry or don’t have the patience to build a list.  So if you find you are backed in a corner, the last resort is to buy or sell an email list.

The theory on any bought or rented list is that the people have opted in for marketing communications.  That assumption is only as good as the person you are buying or renting from.  The first thing that email marketers need to understand is that buying or renting a list has become difficult and/or expensive.

Buying a list is very rare.  In fact, if I run into someone that is selling lists, I am suspicious.  Selling lists legally has become very challenging, if not impossible, and is typically not a good route to pursue.  You’re more likely to run into a scam than a legitimate list source.

List brokers will rent a list by sending a communication to people that have opted in but prices can run up to 50 cents a name.  In most cases, that multiplies the overall expense of the send by at least five.  If the price doesn’t scare you off, the good list brokers can also offer some kind of targeting so that the list is sent to people that fit your email offer.  Bad list brokers don’t even share basic demographic data.  I ran into one that couldn’t/wouldn’t verify the email was sent to their list.  In shor