A short guide for boosting email deliverability for early stage startups

A significant percentage of marketing emails never end up reaching their intended destination. Knowing the basics of email deliverability will ensure more of your emails reach your audience. The cool thing about deliverability is that you actually have a good amount of control over it. What you do before you hit send directly impacts what happens in the milliseconds that follow. Incorporating good sending practices combined with a healthy dose of post-send analysis will guarantee an increase in your deliverability over time.

Below is a list of initial actions that early-stage startups should implement that will improve deliverability. This list is not exhaustive, but these are the first, necessary steps that will set you up for excellent deliverability in the long run. To go deeper on the topic of deliverability and further steps you can take, I recommend watching The Anatomy of Email Deliverability, a webinar led by Campaigner & Kickbox.

What are some things you should do before you hit send?

  • Clean up your contact list a couple times a year. We recommend using a service like Kickbox for email validations. Kickbox classifies your email list into 4 categories: Deliverable Addresses, Risky Addresses, Undeliverable Addresses and Unknown Addresses. Assess your categories to remove contacts that shouldn’t be there and update the contacts that have errors or inaccurate titles, companies, location, etc.
  • Maintain a healthy text to image ratio. If you have too many graphics drowning your text, your email is more likely to be detected as spam. It is recommended you never go over 40%/60% image to text ratio. In fact, we are big fans of what we call “The Reader,” a text-only newsletter with no images. (Learn more about how to create your own Reader-style email in our recent blog post.)
  • Set up Domainkeys Identified Mail (DKIM), which is used by Inbox Service Providers (ISPs) like Google and Yahoo to help detect spam or fake addresses. Emails that fail this “authentication test” have a higher likelihood of being rejected by the recipient’s inbox. Here is a quick step-by-step on how to set this up.
  • Set up Sender Policy Framework (SPF), which is an email validation system that prevents email spoofing by allowing the recipient server to confirm that incoming mail from the outgoing server is authorized by that domain’s owner. It is technically a string of text on your domain or hosting provider. This step-by-step post will help you get this set up.

What are some things you should do after you hit send?

  • Benchmark against your past performance. Compare the performance of your most recent campaign to the campaigns before that. Use your own history and data to track trends over time and determine if you are improving, as well as where there is room for growth.
  • Check if your email marketing platform offers industry benchmarks—many of them do, like MailChimp. These benchmarks give you perspective on where you stand in comparison to others.
  • Analyze both the positive and the negative. It is easy for us to just focus on positive data such as open and click rates. But acknowledging negative interactions is just as telling. How many hard and/or soft bounces? Any spam complaints? Did anyone unsubscribe? The answers to these questions should help guide your future strategy.

The bottom line

The mechanics of email deliverability can be daunting and complex, but a few simple steps, like the ones above, can put you on a great path to increasing your deliverability rate.

Ronit is Blue Seedling's Marketing Manager, an avid traveler and language lover.

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