Yesterday, EveryAction hosted a webinar to discuss insights from our 2016 Email Deliverability Study. Speaker Brett Schenker, EveryAction's very own Email Deliverability Specialist, shared a full hour of tips on how to decrease the chances of your email ending up in the dreaded spam folder, with puns and timely TV references sprinkled in for your general enjoyment.
Shoutout to everyone that joined us from the live presentation (see the recording below)! Unfortunately, there were so many questions from the audience that we weren't able answer them all during the alotted time.
Here are some great, thoughtful questions that we received and Brett's email wisdom.
"How can I convince my nonprofit that list size isn't nearly as important as open rates and an engaged list?"
Brett Schenker: I’d rather have a list of 5,000 with 5,000 active than a list of 1 million with 1,000 active people. Do some queries and present the information. How many people open 1 time, 2x, 3x? That’s your focus really, getting those 1x into 3x or more.
How many open once and never again? I think the info you find will surprise you when it comes to that. I regularly find 40-60% of lists are “inactive,” in that they haven’t opened or clicked an email in a year.
So, try some sends where you just email the active folks. I bet you’ll get better results and then present that to your nonprofit as to how smaller can be better.
"What are some of the major rules about what constitutes as a 'spammy' email element?"
BS: It really varies based on the email spam system and can even vary between the same system and what it learns from usage. I mentioned a few in the webinar like using giant images and little text, or “millions of dollars.”
There’s some great systems to test your email like Litmus and Email on Acid where you can test your email blasts and they tell you if you pass various rule sets. One way to look (that’s also fun) is Spamassassin which is a free rule set that’s used by a lot. You can find the rules on the web. My favorite to this day is “BANG_OPRAH” which is “Talks about Oprah with an exclamation!”
"Can you refer to any re-engagement strategies/campaigns that you have found work?"
BS: Re-engagement, it’s all about your specific list. Test. Test. Test. Find out what works for your list. I have found that surveys do really well, especially asking why they’re not reading the emails or what they want to see (and then follow up on delivering). Surveys are my go-to when it comes to improving engagement.
"What is SPF and DKIM?"
BS: SPF and DKIM are two types of email authentication. Basically, they say the bulk email sender has permission to send email on your behalf. Without it, it might look like spoofing.
So, you add some information to your DNS settings and then things are all set. We automatically sign your emails with both SPF and DKIM, but it can help for the organization to set it up too.
If you’re an EveryAction/NGP VAN client, reach out to us and we can provide what you’ll need to set it up. You’ll need to work with your IT department though to implement it, and warning, it can be tricky.
"Do you have any suggestions on how to avoid the 'Dear Friend' problem for people who sign up for your emails, but decline to provide their names?"
BS: I personally just avoid the first name all together or use [First Name] instead. I think using the first name is rather odd as someone who receives that email. You don’t really know me, so why are you using my first name?
Commercial emails have much greater success from what I see in results and they avoid the salutation all together. I personally only used it in my program when the message was a bit more formal.
"Would structuring an email using the 'table' tool increase its likelihood of being spammed?"
BS: It shouldn’t, though I’ve seen weird spam rules where tables did cause an issue. It was temporary and weird. In fact tables are sometimes needed for some email providers to get things to look good.
HTML and CSS isn’t really standardized well when it comes to email, and some systems like Outlook, fail to recognize common elements. This is a great post going over all of that. Short version, you actually need tables in some email providers.
"My boss wants us to add emails from 10-15 year old correspondences to our database. Is this is increasing the likelihood that all our emails are being seen as SPAM?"
BS: Oh, that’s likely a part of your problem. Tell your boss “no.” Seriously, this is a bad habit and can lead to all sorts of issues. About 30% of email goes bad every year and the chances these addresses are still good are slim to none (unless they’ve recently corresponded).
For those really old addresses, find some in the system and see how they’re doing. My guess is, not well. Present that to your boss and explain how email works. They’re likely damaging your program and all it takes is one address to cause all sorts of issues.
"You mentioned a lot of 'you should' do this. How do we learn 'how' to, for example, search and segment off people who never open emails?"
BS: If you’re an EveryAction client, hit up our support! We’re happy to help out and walk people through how to do these things. Most of what needs to be done though are very simple searches that once you’re shown, it makes a lot of sense and easy to repeat going forward.
"If you fail to follow up with those automated spam filters that send out reply emails asking you to verify your status, does that affect your score, reputation, etc?"
BS: It might, it definitely doesn’t help. The reason I think it could is that you’re sending to a “dead” address then that’s not opening and clicking your emails. And if they’re just sending that verify response back, then they’re not receiving the email.
My bigger question is: why continue to keep sending? They’re not getting the email based on that alone.
"Does adding an image of the signer at the bottom of an email up your spam score?"
BS: It depends. How big is the image? Make sure to include “alt text” for the image, and that shouldn’t be an issue.
"What if someone reads messages in preview mode - that wouldn't count as an open, right?"
BS: Opens in general are under-reported, that’s correct. It can be a few percentage points. I’d pay attention to opens, clicks, and conversions to get the whole picture just in case and not just rely on opens.
But, this is also why a "win back" email campaign helps. It can catch those under-reported folks to prevent them from being removed from the list.
"Do out of office automatic replies impact your list? If so, what can you do about it?"
BS: It shouldn’t, but I think out of office replies are a great opportunity. Use them to get more information like work numbers, titles and especially when someone leaves a position. You can also use it to know when you shouldn’t email a person, for instance, if they’re on a long sabbatical. When I ran programs, I loved to scrape the info from those responses and use it down the road.
That's not all folks! If you want even more information about email deliverability, check out the below recording of the webinar.
If you have another question about email deliverability, tweet us at @EveryActionHQ and we'll help however we can.