October 2018 - Fundamental Marketing

Monthly Archives: October 2018

Oct 29

Email Delivery Vs Email Deliverability: What’s The Difference?

There has been lots of talk about email deliverability as of late with talk of spam complaints, too many bounces and people not receiving emails which has had a negative impact on ROI from email marketing efforts.

In all of this talk of email deliverability, I am seeing a lot of fundamental terminology being misused or misunderstood.  With that being said, I want to dive into the most basic of concepts and terminology today and set the record straight as it pertains to "email delivery" and "email deliverability".

Though the two above terms are being used interchangeably, they have very different meanings.

Mail Being Delivered

Email Delivery vs. Email Deliverability

Let's first start as they say in sports with the X's and O's or "the basics".  What is the difference between email delivery and deliverability?  Here are some simple definitions:

  • Email Delivery: To be considered “delivered”, your email simply has to be accepted by the recipient’s server. Sounds easy, right? If you answer yes, you are unfortunately incorrect. Delivered doesn’t necessarily mean to the inbox. It just means it didn’t get rejected and completely blocked by the ISP.  The question, "was an email delivered" answer means: Can the email message be accepted by the ISP.
  • Email Deliverability:  Email Deliverability or "Inbox Placement", simply put, very simply refers to where your email message actually ends up after it was accepted by the ISP.  The options here are the inbox, the spam folder or the promotions folder.

Think of the journey of your email like this, after you send the email, it hits the first checkpoint with the ISP.  The Question that is answered here is "Will the ISP accept the email?"  If the message is accepted and delivered (email delivery), then it hits checkpoint 2.  At checkpoint 2, otherwise known as the spam filter, the ISP determines where inside of this mailbox your email should be placed.  The Inbox, the spam folder or the promotions folder. 

The journey of an email on it's way to the inbox

Let's now break this down a bit further so you can understand what is going on.  

How Does Email Delivery Work?

At its most basic level, email can be delivered or bounced.  A bounce is when the email does not arrive in the intended mailbox (their inbox, spam, or otherwise). Bounces can be a soft bounce, where the server will continue to try to deliver the message again or hard bounce when an email message is considered permanently undeliverable.  

So the question now is what can impact email delivery?  Here is a list of some items that can cause an email to bounce and not be delivered:

  1. Poor Email Infrastructure:  No SPF or DKIM record validation your emails
  2. Hard Bounce: The email address does not exist
  3. Soft Bounce:  The mailbox is full, the message is too large, or a mail block (Mail Blocks can be caused by the following: email reputation as a known spammer, SPF issues, The email is seen as spam by the spam filters, email attachments detected)

Now that we have a basic understanding of delivery, let's dive into email deliverability.

How Does Email Deliverability Work?

Email deliverability is also referred to as inbox placement.  Where in the inbox did the email land?

Email Deliverability is dependent on three things: Identification, Reputation, and Content.

  1. Identification:  ISP's want to know it’s actually you that is sending an email.  Think of email authentication the same way you would a drivers license, or a passport.  When you go to the airport, the TSA checks your license or passport to ensure that you are the same person listed on the ticket.  Authentication of your emails works the same way, but instead of a passport or ID, the ISP's use frameworks such as SPF, DKIM or DMARC to validate that the server the email is being sent from matches the from address in the email field.
  2. Content:  Your emails have t be appropriate and relevant to your subscribers.  If your emails aren't appropriate or relevant, your email subscribers will either opt-out (if you're lucky), stop opening your emails (this has a negative impact on reputation) or in the worst case report you as spam.  Other items that can affect your deliverability from a content perspective are excessive use of exclamation points, subject lines, awkward formatting of your emails and the use of URL shorteners like bit.ly (yes URL shorteners are bad!!!!!!)  When writing your content you really need to put yourself in the shoes of your target customer and ask yourself, would I really open this or would this email be valuable and provide value to me.
  3. Reputation:  Sender reputation or sender score basically shows how trustworthy of a sender you are.  Every email you send has a positive or negative affect on your overall sender reputation.  Sender reputation looks at spam complaints, how often you hit spam traps, how many of your emails bounce, how many recipients unsubscribe, how many emails are opened, are emails replied to or forwarded, how many links are in emails, mailing to unknown emails (unsolicited email sending such as purchasing a list and mailing it) being blacklisted.  

How to improve email Delivery.

Delivery issues are typically related to one of two root causes.  First is a poor internal infrastructure.  Take the time to ensure your SPF, DKIM and DMARC records within your DNS settings are configured properly and tested.  If you do not have the technical expertise to do this, then hire a professional who specializes in email deliverabilityThe second issue is your list hygiene practices.  Good email addresses turn bad if they are not logged into or the domain is terminated.  By having good list hygiene in place you can minimize the number of bounces that occur that have a negative impact on your email delivery and sender reputation.  You should be cleaning your lists at a minimum of every quarter in order to keep bad email addresses out of your lists.  

How To Make It Into The Inbox.

Now that you know the difference between deliverability and delivery, here are tips on how to improve your deliverability and make it into the inbox.

  1.  Setup your email infrastructure properly: (see #1 above)
  2. Maintain a clean email list:  You need to keep a regular watch on the health and engagement of your email list.  Permission to market (when they opt-in) is great, but there is much more to it.  Keeping a clean list is made up of two key components, email hygiene and engagement.  As discussed above, run regular list scrubs (monthly if you can or at the minimum quarterly) to ensure you have a verified and clean list.  Poor engagement has a negative impact on your sender score and reputation.  Running monthly check on your email engagement will give you a birds eye view on what is going on and then give you the ability to run re-engagement campaigns to get them back before they forget who you are.
  3. Let them Unsubscribe:  When it comes to email deliverability, an unsubscribe is not a bad thing.  It is much better than the alternatives of them not opening your email, just deleting your email or marking the email as spam.  Let it be easy for them to unsubscribe, which means do not bury the required cans-pam opt out with a bunch of spacers at the end of your email.  If they can't find the unsubscribe button, then they will mark you as spam.
  4.   Keep your content relevant and personal:  The question you need to ask yourself before you hit that lovely send or publish button is, are you sending content that matters to the subscriber?  Make sure that you are sending personalized emails that will resonate with the subscriber, emails that provide value to the subscriber and emails that are engaging with the subscriber.  Relevancy matters.  Set expectations on what you will be sending and tick to those expectations.  Put your self on the receiving end of the emails and ask the question, is this engaging to me and relevant to the topic I requested information on?  By doing this, it will not only improve your engagement, but it will build better relationships with your contacts and result in better ROI on your email marketing efforts.

I hope this helps clear the air on the difference between email delivery vs email deliverability and gives you a few ways to improve both.  There is a lot that goes into getting emails delivered and into the inbox, but if you follow the tips below and get a solid foundation in place, you will see great improvements in your email marketing efforts.

If you have questions and want to take a deeper look at your email deliverability, comment below or feel free to schedule a time to go over your email infrastructure and practices.

Oct 09

7 things you need to do to ensure your Infusionsoft account is setup properly before you send another email

Do not send another email from your Infusionsoft account until you read this all the way through! (There is some free help available to you at the end of this post)

You may have a problem in your marketing that you are not aware of. That problem is with your email deliverability.

8 out of 10 clients I speak with have a problem in their systems or configuration that is having an adverse effect on their email deliverability. This problem results in a negative impact on revenues.

Although email deliverability (inbox placement) is a complex matter (content, subject lines, systems, ip addresses, engagement etc), there are several fundamental pieces you must make sure you have in place Inside of your Infusionsoft account before you send another email.

Here are the 7 things you need to do to ensure your Infusionsoft account is setup properly before you send another email.

  1. Configure DKIM within Infusionsoft
  2. Configure your DKIM within your DNS
  3. Setup your SPF records for Infusionsoft email and IP’s
  4. Setup your DMARC record
  5. Configure and run your Infusionsoft Automated List Management
  6. Identify and segment based on email engagement. (do not mail those that are not engaged)
  7. Clean and Scrub your list with an Email Hygiene Solution. (recommended a minimum of every 6 months)

After reading this list, you may be asking, what are all these and what does all this technical mumbojumbo mean?  Let me help you:

What is DKIM?

DKIM (Domain Keys Identified Mail) is a complex email protocol that allows a sender's identity to be authenticated by the recipient to help combat email fraud. Also known as “digital signature,” this is a method for associating a domain name with an email message, allowing a person, role, or organization to claim some responsibility for the message. A digital signature gives recipients a reason to believe the email message was created by a known sender and was not altered in transit.

How does DKIM work?

A public key is used to create a DNS record. That same key is also used to digitally sign the header of emails that are sent. When the recipient's provider receives the email, they check the sender's DNS records and the sender's authenticity is validated by the matching key. The message can then be delivered to the recipient with confidence that the sender is who they claim to be.

Why is DKIM important?

DKIM affords the greatest assurance that the sender is who they say they are and gives email providers a way to track and hold senders accountable for the messages they're sending. As a result, deliverability of these messages is greater and inbox placement is improved.

What is SPF?

Sender Policy Framework is an email validation protocol designed to detect and block email spoofing by providing a mechanism to allow receiving mail exchangers to verify that incoming mail from a domain comes from an IP Address authorized by that domain's administrators.  This is configured in your websites DNS.

How does SPF work?

The receiving server extracts the domain's SPF record, and then checks if the source email server IP is approved to send emails for that domain. Receiving servers verify SPF by checking a specific TXT DNS entry in your domain, which includes a list of approved IP addresses. This is one of the key aspects of SPF.

Why is SPF important?

SPF records prevent sender address forgery by protecting the envelope sender address, allowing the domain administrator to specify which mail server are allowed to send mail from their domain. This anti-spam method however requires that you have a properly formatted SPF record and the receiving server has the ability to check if the message complies with this record

What is DMARC?

Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance is an email-validation system designed to detect and prevent email spoofing.

How does DMARC work?

A DMARC policy allows a sender to indicate that their messages are protected by SPF and/or DKIM, and tells a receiver what to do if neither of those authentication methods passes – such as junk or reject the message. DMARC removes guesswork from the receiver’s handling of these failed messages, limiting or eliminating the user’s exposure to potentially fraudulent & harmful messages. DMARC also provides a way for the email receiver to report back to the sender about messages that pass and/or fail DMARC evaluation.

Why is DMARC important?

The main goal of DMARC is to detect and prevent email spoofing. For example, phishing scams that are designed to look like they’re coming from your bank or Amazon, prompting you to click on a link to reset your password or to give them your information(we have all received those at least once).

SPF and DKIM do a majority of the hard work here. By designating email systems that are permitted to send email for a domain, and by  signing messages to avoid header modification en-route.

But DMARC ties the two technologies together, providing a single interface for instructing remote mailers on the domains policies, and actions to take if and when those policies are not met. 

What is Automated List Management?

Infusionsoft Automated List Management is a tool inside Infusionsoft that gives you the ability to automate the engagement status of your individual contacts based on their engagement or lack of engagement with your email.

How does Automated List Management work?

Infusionsoft's automated list management allows you to configure two different thresholds of non-engagement within your marketing, Unengaged Marketable status and Unengaged Non-Marketable status.  These statuses are set by you and are determined by the last time a contact filled out a form, opened and email, clicked on a link or purchased through an Infusionsoft order form.  You have the ability to set the timeframe on both of these.

Why is Automated List Management important?

There are several reasons why Automated List Management in Infusionsoft is important. First, by managing your list based on engagement, you are practicing good list hygiene.  30% of email users change their emails every year which is why email addresses go bad. Removing these non engaged emails from your marketing will have a positive impact on your email deliverability and Inbox placement.  

Second, when the ISP's are deciding where to place your email, the inbox, promotions tab or spam filter, engagement within your emails is a major part of the algorithm. Poor engagement with your emails= Poor inbox placement.

What is Engagement Segmentation?

List segmentation refers to the process of dividing a email contact list into smaller “segments” according to certain shared characteristics.  When Looking at Engagement Segmentation, those characteristics in this case will be time since last engagement

How does Engagement Segmentation work?

Email segmentation is a way to group your email list into categories to send more targeted marketing emailsEmail segmentation also affects your sender reputation. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) evaluate how your recipients interact with your email when deciding where your mail will be placed.

*PRO TIP - you can use PlusThis or My Fusion Helper to identify the engagement levels of your database and tag them accordingly.  From there you can create automated campaigns to handle the unengaged portions of your list.  We also have several prebuilt campaigns designed to facilitate this.

Why is Engagement Segmentation important?

Poor engagement with your emails = Poor inbox placement. When the ISP's are deciding where to place your email, the inbox, promotions tab or spam filter, engagement within your emails is a major part of the algorithm.

Once you have identified they have not engaged, you have the opportunity to segment those contacts and reengage them, via different mediums.  Those could include retargeting ads via Facebook or utilizing a third Party SMTP email system to engage on a different set if IP addresses while still leveraging the overall power of Infusionsoft..

What is Email List Hygiene?

 Email hygiene is defined as the process of verifying or removing invalid email addresses from an email list. These accounts may be from people who switched jobs and closed their old company address, people who switched domains (ex: from aol.com to gmail.com), dead email accounts or people who unsubscribed.

How does Email Hygiene work?

An easy way to keep your emails clean is to use a third-party email verification service. Email verification services ensure that emails in your list are actually sendable before being sent.  Third part email hygiene tools will identify the following poisons within your database: Bouncing Emails, Spam Traps, Bots, Invalid Emails, Typos Domains, Role Accounts, Catch-all email addresses and Serial Complainers.  All of the above can have a negative impact on your Email Deliverability and Inbox Placement.

Being proactive like this goes along way in the success of your campaigns

As you can see, keeping your list clean is a minor annoyance where the good heavily outweighs the bad. Practicing proper email hygiene will separate your list from your competitors and keep your subscribers engaged and happy for a long time.

Why is Email Hygiene important?

Poor engagement with your emails = Poor inbox placement. When the ISP's are deciding where to place your email, the inbox, promotions tab or spam filter, engagement within your emails is a major part of the algorithm.

By being proactive with your list hygiene you will experience more consistent email deliverability,  have higher engagement with your emails, increase your Inbox Placement, create a better domain reputation and overall increase your conversion rates and ROI from your Email Marketing. 

Email deliverability is a complex beast to tackle, but these 7 items will give you a solid foundation within your Infusionsoft application to ensure you are doing what you can to increase your Inbox Placement and get more eyes on your emails. 

If you do not have a dedicated member on your team that can handle this or if you need help, Fundamental Marketing is here to support you! We are offering a free consultation to go over your system to ensure you are good to go when it comes to sending emails with Infusionsoft.  You can schedule your FREE Email Deliverability Consultation here.