The (Underrated) Power of Email Deliverability: What Marketing Leaders Need To Know

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Google and Yahoo have an email update for you, but it’s probably in your spam folder. The tech giants started the new year by escalating their efforts against bulk email spam. With each company releasing its own set of rules and guidelines, email marketers need to navigate these un-spammed waters. 

But the extra navigation isn’t without good cause –– email marketing budgets saw a major resurgence towards the end of 2023, as brands looked for ways to increase engagement while still seeing a return on investment. 

While tackling issues surrounding bulk senders is a step in the right direction, email marketing still contains several layers to navigate, levers to pull, and boxes to check to reach its full potential. But, are we, as marketers, effectively adjusting our strategies in light of these new hurdles?

The evolution of inboxes and systems means agility is key in auditing and advancing investments to reach consumers, ensuring that email also levels up into a larger, omnichannel engagement strategy. As marketers look to refine and refresh their strategies to keep up with shifting demands, keep these four areas in mind. 

The Growing Importance of Email Deliverability 

For anyone not so in the weeds of email marketing, what exactly is email deliverability? Simply put, email deliverability is the ability for an email to land in a recipient’s inbox, the engagement that will influence further inbox placements and actions elicited from the receiver. 

Email deliverability involves evaluating the relationship between the sender and the recipient. The expectation, relevance, and timeliness of an email are observed by inbox providers through how the recipient interacts with mail from the sender.

For example, how can marketers engage with and appeal to Gmail users so that Gmail will treat the emails better and, therefore, categorize them more advantageously?

Additionally, we must emphasize the recipient’s behavior regarding deliverability. Are you doing this already? If not, ask yourself these three questions: 

  1. Is this email expected and relevant?
  2. How will the recipient engage with the email?
  3. Did their interaction elicit future emails?

How to Stay On Top of Compliance Laws to Protect Consumers 

While it may not be the most fun topic for email marketing, understanding and enforcing compliance with email regulations, such as CAN-SPAM in the United States and GDPR in the European Union, is essential. 

Email deliverability practices must align with these regulations, helping to avoid legal issues, ensure trust in your customers, and maintain ethical email marketing practices. 

Compliance is a foolproof way to establish trust with your customers and recipients. Making it easy for people to unsubscribe from your emails is a core component of spam laws, which can be seen through one-click unsubscribe options that align with changing requirements –– and we’ll touch on this more later. 

Additionally, you must consistently deliver relevant and wanted content to your audience to build trust and foster those personal relationships you worked so hard to form. Trustworthy senders are less likely to be marked as spam, and their emails are more likely to be welcomed by recipients –– which is all we want at the end of the day. 

Navigating New Requirements and Fine-Tuned Traps

Not all email marketers are aware of the emerging importance of your domain’s reputation as a sender. The days of solely looking at internet protocol (IP) addresses are long gone, with marketers analyzing the combined impact of your IP addresses and domain reputations instead. 

Inbox providers have a multitude of ways to identify senders by using the domains you send from, the IPs you send from, the content you send, and the links you use in your emails. They will assign your identity a reputation which dictates how your mail will be treated at the inbox.

But news flash –– every domain you create starts at reputation zero. Each new IP or domain created will need a period of “warming up” to reacclimate itself to the amount of email sending you might have previously been doing. 

And this period of warming comes with some fickle navigation and fine-tuned traps. The reality is that there are endless spam traps out there, and new ones are being set up daily. An email marketer’s job is complex, from pristine spam traps or honey pots to recycled spam and typo traps. 

So, how do you avoid spam traps? Follow these four simple steps, and you should be on your way to your recipients’ inbox:

  1. Implement a double or confirmed opt-in
  2. Remove unengaged recipients
  3. Don’t use purchased or harvested lists

Leveraging Content to Improve Email Engagement

Engagement is one of the most essential measurable factors regarding email deliverability –– if not the most important.

To boost engagement, relevance is key and can be achieved by targeting emails to specific audiences. If an email resonates and feels relevant to the recipient, it will have better engagement. Not to mention, it’s easier to make an email relevant for 10,000 than it is for 100,000. However, the level of engagement overrules the bigger, more generalized content and response. 

How can you do this? Generate an enticing content structure that masters the art of the “call to action.” Then, coupled with Google and Yahoo’s new requirements around a new protocol for list-unsubscribe headers, you need to ensure you’re staying above the spam rate threshold. 

Additionally, make sure there is a balance between images and text. An email stacked with 3 pages of text will likely earn an immediate “delete,” while an all-image message might make the call to action harder to communicate. Finally, avoid spam “trigger words” or components such as messages in all caps, colorful and different-sized fonts, and broken HTML code. 

Leveling Up Email into Omnichannel

Now let’s address the major falsity that “email is dead” –– email is only dead if it’s your only channel. Now, email can still be incredibly effective on its own, but its effectiveness is strengthened when integrated with other channels. 

Therefore, focusing on just email or SMS is incredibly reductive, but acknowledging the differences and benefits of each channel is crucial. Email marketing, for example, is a much richer canvas to paint on –– more complex, long-form content at a determined cadence.

Pay attention to where your audience is, and prioritize and maximize those spaces –– what do they look like? Where are they? What are they receptive to? Will in-app messages and push notifications keep users more engaged than email?

In the dynamic realm of email marketing in 2024, navigating spam filters and regulatory compliance demands a proactive approach. Marketers must prioritize personalized connections, ensuring email deliverability while adhering to CAN-SPAM and GDPR to build trust. Attention to domain reputation, avoidance of spam traps, and the creation of engaging content are pivotal for sustained email engagement. 

Embracing omnichannel strategies, including the resurgence of direct mail, adds new dimensions, requiring continual adaptation to stay ahead in this ever-evolving landscape.

Josh Wetzel
Josh Wetzel, Chief Revenue Officer of OneSignal, is a passionate leader with a 20-year track record of driving product adoption and rapid revenue growth within e-commerce, software, and digital media. With strengths in scaling businesses and establishing and executing high-growth plans, Josh has led multiple pre-revenue to $100M gross annual revenue startups. Having previously been in leadership roles at eBay, Bazaarvoice, PubMatic, Polyvore, and CNET, Josh has contributed to $4 billion in equity creation for founders, investors, and employees.

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