What will get your email blocked ?

When thinking about tips for successful email deliverability, let’s first look at the inverse – what will get your email blocked or junked by an ISP or other receiver?

There are 6 primary ways an ISP (let’s focus in them for simplicity) will block or filter your commercial messages.

Primary ways to have your message fail the deliverability test

1)Technical/Authentication: Most ISPs now require that your messages are authenticated using SPF and increasingly DKIM. Other technical aspects such as a misconfigured sending infrastructure and X-headers can cause blocking.

2)ISP Protocols: Each ISP has its own rules on things such as the number of emails they will receive per hour from a sender; the need to build up a reputation on your IP address before they will allow you to send high volumes, etc.

3)Content/Coding: While becoming less of a factor, most receivers still incorporate various rules related to content (certain spammy words, ratio of image to text that is too high, etc.) and improper HTML code.

4)Bounces: Too many emails sent to bad email addresses is a sure way to find your emails in the junk folder.

5)Blocklists/Blacklists: Most ISPs have their own “blacklists” or “blocklists” but some also incorporate external lists such as those maintained by MAPS and Spamhaus. Senders are placed on these lists for a variety of issues including recipient complaints and sending to “spamtrap” email addresses.

6)Abuse (Spam) Complaints/Reputation/Relevance: Now the most important factor in their algorithms, ISPs are increasingly looking at the engagement level of each individual recipient with your emails. The idea being that if one recipient never opens or clicks on an email, the ISP may filter the sender’s emails to the junk folder for that recipient. But for another recipient that engages with the emails, the emails would continue to be delivered to their inbox, even if there was a relatively high spam complaint rate for a specific message. But spam complaints remain the key reason your emails will be filtered.

So assuming you have: A) Properly configured your emails; B) Correctly authenticated them; C) Are using proper HTML code and regularly run your messages though a code and content checker; and D) Are conducting regular list hygiene; then your focus should be on increasing engagement and minimizing spam complaints.

Increasing Engagement & minimizing complaints

1)Managing Expectations: The top reasons subscribers hit the spam button is: The emails are irrelevant; Come too frequently; and they don’t trust the unsubscribe link. So the beginning of the relationship is key: tell subscribers what they will receive and how often during the opt-in process. Reinforce this with a welcome email or series that reinforces what they will receive and the benefits of the email program.

2)Providing value: Make your emails relevant by collecting their preferences and delivering targeted content. Use triggered emails based on their individual data (e.g., birthday, anniversary) and behavior (recent purchases, links clicked, etc.) to deliver truly relevant content. Don’t just sell, provide content that adds value, surprises, educates and helps the recipient solve a problem.

3)Making it Easy to Change the Relationship: If you know going in that some subscribers will want your emails less frequently or their interests will change, make it easy for them to modify their email relationship through a preference center that also makes it easy to unsubscribe (the alternative being the spam button). Also make these options known within the emails and welcome program.

Guest post by Loren McDonald of Silverpop

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