About Evan Samurin

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Evan Samurin is a third generation entrepreneur with a passion for helping business move from transactional to transformational. Having worked with entrepreneurs over the last 9 years, Evan is a wealth of knowledge. Evan leverages passion, compassion and wit to help entrepreneurs thrive.

Dec 20

Clone of Why should I not use a PTR mechanism in my SPF records

Email authentication can be quite confusing.  You SPF, DKIM, DMARC types records and then with those you have PTR mechanisms, A records, MX records, IPV4 and IPV6 records.  What does it all mean?

To the average Joe, it is code for I need to go run and tuck my head in the sand and hide from it all.  But, for those who care about email delivery, Inbox placement and getting eyes on emails it means a lot.  It means you need to learn it all or hire someone who knows what all of this means.

I am writing this today to help those of you who want to learn it.  Over the past few months, I have looked into well over 1000 domains and what I can tell you is that 91% of the domains I inspected are not configured properly for email authentication.  In easier terms, either their DMARC, DKIM or SPF records are wrong or non existent.

One of the recent trends I have been seeing is the use of a PTR mechanism inside of SPF records.  DNS pointer records (PTR) are essentially considered to be reverse DNS addresses.

PTR records are the opposite of  A records. Instead of resolving a domain name to an IP address, it resolves an IP address to a domain name.  What this means is if the sender is sending an email from IP address 2.8.1.2, the receiver will perform a PTR lookup of 2.8.1.2 to attempt to retrieve a hostname (domain name).  Lastly, if a hostname is discovered for IP address 2.8.1.2, then that hostname’s domain is compared to the domain that was originally used to lookup the SPF record.

This from of validation and lookup mechanism is slow and not as reliable as other mechanisms. Because of that, it should not be used as a validation method in SPF records per RFC 4408: https://mxtoolbox.com/problem/spf/spf-type-ptr-check.  MOST IMPORTANTLY: Some large receivers will skip the mechanism – or worse they'll skip the entire SPF record – because such mechanisms cannot be easily cached which then causes a SPF validation failure.

Other mechanisms for validation should be used instead, such as: "A", "MX", "iP4", "iP6", "include".

If you are using email to communicate with clients and prospects, proper validation is the key if you actually want your emails to have a chance at landing in the inbox.

Feb 20

Why should I not use a PTR mechanism in my SPF records

Email authentication can be quite confusing.  You SPF, DKIM, DMARC types records and then with those you have PTR mechanisms, A records, MX records, IPV4 and IPV6 records.  What does it all mean?

To the average Joe, it is code for I need to go run and tuck my head in the sand and hide from it all.  But, for those who care about email delivery, Inbox placement and getting eyes on emails it means a lot.  It means you need to learn it all or hire someone who knows what all of this means.

I am writing this today to help those of you who want to learn it.  Over the past few months, I have looked into well over 1000 domains and what I can tell you is that 91% of the domains I inspected are not configured properly for email authentication.  In easier terms, either their DMARC, DKIM or SPF records are wrong or non existent.

One of the recent trends I have been seeing is the use of a PTR mechanism inside of SPF records.  DNS pointer records (PTR) are essentially considered to be reverse DNS addresses.

PTR records are the opposite of  A records. Instead of resolving a domain name to an IP address, it resolves an IP address to a domain name.  What this means is if the sender is sending an email from IP address 2.8.1.2, the receiver will perform a PTR lookup of 2.8.1.2 to attempt to retrieve a hostname (domain name).  Lastly, if a hostname is discovered for IP address 2.8.1.2, then that hostname’s domain is compared to the domain that was originally used to lookup the SPF record.

This from of validation and lookup mechanism is slow and not as reliable as other mechanisms. Because of that, it should not be used as a validation method in SPF records per RFC 4408: https://mxtoolbox.com/problem/spf/spf-type-ptr-check.  MOST IMPORTANTLY: Some large receivers will skip the mechanism – or worse they'll skip the entire SPF record – because such mechanisms cannot be easily cached which then causes a SPF validation failure.

Other mechanisms for validation should be used instead, such as: "A", "MX", "iP4", "iP6", "include".

If you are using email to communicate with clients and prospects, proper validation is the key if you actually want your emails to have a chance at landing in the inbox.

Feb 04

Soft Email Bounces Explained

What is a Soft Email Bounce?  

Regardless of the email platform you are using (Keap, Infusionsoft by Keap, Ontraport, Hubspot Active Campaign etc) bouncing emails (an email that never actually got to your intended recipient) are an unavoidable part of the life of anyone using email to market their business.

Bouncing Email

High bounce rates (more than 2%) create negative impacts that you must be aware of:

  • Bad reputation. ISP's monitor and watch for addresses that continue to send messages to invalid users.  
  • Low Inbox placement.  ISP's monitor bounce rates for every campaign you send, and use that information to decide where to delivery your emails in the future (the inbox, promotions folder or junk folder).
  • Blacklisting. Frequently seen high bounce rates get the sender's IP address land on blacklists supported by ISPs and anti-spam organizations.
  • Account suspension. Email service providers (Keap, Infusionsoft by Keap, Ontraport, Active Campaign or Hubspot) have a strict policy as to how they internally handle bounce and complaint rates. They will suspend the user's account if the campaign sent by the user generates a complaint rate that is beyond the ESP's allowed limit.
  • Lost revenues. Email service providers charge you for each message you are sending or store within their systems. Invalid email addresses are increasing the cost of your email campaigns without any return on investment.  Furthermore, poor inbox placement will have a negative impact on your email marketing campaigns.

But what are these different types of bounces and what do they mean?  

Well luckily for all of us, bounces are not as mythical as Unicorns and they can be dealt with once you understand what they are and why they are occuring.

The first item to realize is that there are two types of email bounces, soft bounces and Hard Bounces.  A hard bounce occurs when the message has been permanently rejected.  A soft bounce means that the email address was valid and the email message reached the recipient’s mail server but was not accepted at this time.  

Hard Bounces

A hard bounce is an e-mail message that has been returned to the sender because the recipient's address is invalid. A hard bounce might occur because the domain name doesn't exist or because the recipient is unknown, the domain name does not exist or the recipients mail servers are completely blocking delivery.  Hard Bounces are automatically handled by most ESP's (like Keap or Infusionsoft by Keap).

Even though hard bounces are automatically handled once they occur, you want to be doing everything you can to minimize these hard bounces from occurring as they Will HAVE A NEGATIVE IMPACT ON YOUR INBOX PLACEMENT.  Good list hygiene practices (regularly cleaning your list with a third party tool and engagement tracking) is highly recommended to prevent these email toxins from staying in your list and hurting your deliverability.

Soft Bounces

When talking about soft bounces,  we are talking about is a temporary bounce.  A bounce that can be classified as temporary indicates that while the delivery of this current message was unsuccessful, you may be able to deliver another email to that address at a later date.   If an email gets a soft bounce on an email send, most email providers will attempt to deliver the email over the period of a few days (this is why an email may show bounced and opened). You should keep an eye on these addresses -- if you notice that the same ones are popping up over and over again, it's best to remove them.

Bounce Rates should be kept under 2%.  Any higher than that and you will likely see a negative impact on deliverability

To help you understand soft bounces better and what this all means, here is a list of the soft bounce types and their meaning:

  • Mailbox Full: The recipient's email box is too full. There is no room for the message. Most of the time this is related to improper maintenance, but it could mean that the recipient no longer actively uses the email account even though it still exists.
  • Message too Large: There is content in the message or attachments causing the message size to exceed the limits of the receiving server.
  • DNS Failure: The email cannot be delivered due to an issue with the receiving server. This is most likely an issue with the nameserver settings for your domain. Contact your domain administrator for assistance. The issue may be related to the SPF records.
  • General: The specific reason for the bounce has not been detected.
  • Auto Reply: This kind of soft bounce indicates the message has been delivered, but the recipient has an auto-reply enabled on their account. The bounce status will be removed as soon as the recipient opens the email.
  • Subscribe Request: These are recorded when an auto-reply is sent to your bounce capture email account ([email protected] or [email protected]) asking to be added to your list. They are a type of soft bounce since most people would not send a message to these accounts.
  • Mail Blocks: A mail block is recorded when the recipient's email server blocks an email message completely. It rejects it before it tries to deliver it to their inbox.
  • General: The recipient's email server is blocking messages sent through the Infusionsoft server.
  • Known Spammer: The recipient's email server is blocking messages from your email account based on an email history or reputation that indicates you've been sending SPAM.
  • Relay Denied: The recipient's email server is blocking messages sent through the Infusionsoft server. Setting up your SPF to include infusionmail.com will help you resolve this issue.
  • Spam Detected: The recipient's email server is blocking your email because the content looks like SPAM. Use the Infusionsoft Spam Score tool in the email template to check the email content and reduce the SPAM score below 5 (preferably zero.)
  • Attachment Detected: The recipient's email server is blocking the message because of the attachment. It may have identified the attachment as a possible virus source, the system may not allow attachments at all, or may block specific types of files (e.g. .exe). The size of the attachment may also be causing an issue. Make sure your attachment size is less than 10 MB.
  • Unsubscribe Request: These are recorded when an auto-reply request is sent to your bounce capture email account([email protected] or [email protected]) asking to be removed from your email list. A real person will reply to the email or click on the Unsubscribe Link.  These Unsubscribe Requests are the same as an ISP Spam complaint.
  • Undetermined: An undetermined status is assigned when Infusionsoft is not able to identify the cause of the bounce based on the feedback received from the receiving server.

Here are a few tips that will help you reduce your bounces and be in good standing with the email Gods.

  1.  Do not buy, rent or harvest email addresses.
  2.  Use a confirmed (double) opt-in process
  3.  Regularly clean your list 
  4.  Monitor Bounces by domain.
  5.  Remove emails that are repeatedly soft bouncing.
  6.  Test your emails for Spam Score before you send.
  7.  Setup proper email infrastructure (SPF, DKIM, DMARC)

Email bounces will happen, the key thing you must remember is how they impact your domain’s reputation>   A little bit of planning and prevention will go a long way towards protecting your domain’s reputation and help you to increase your odds of landing in the inbox of your subscribers.

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.

Sep 27

It’s not about the size of your list, it’s how engaged it is.

It's all in the list... If you do nothing else, grow a big list... If you don't have a big list, you can't make money.

I am sure we have all heard the talk about the need to have a huge list.  I mean look anywhere online and you see all the "experts" talking about building your list.  We all want a massive mailing list of prospects and customer wanting to do business with us.  I'm guilty there as well.  

The truth of the matter is that it's not the size of your list that matters, it's how engaged that list is. 

In working with over 5,000 small businesses, I see this obsession with having a large email list. There is a sense of pride they carry with the size of the email list. That obsession with list size 9 times out of 10 though is to the detriment of the business. You may be asking yourself, what’s the problem with a large list?

Let me explain. I was on the phone with a prospective client with some email deliverability challenges who claimed they had a list of 95,000 and they were starting to notice a dip in email opens. So, we dug into that list. It turns out that the 95,000-person list wasn't 95,000 when you excluded the opt-outs and bounces. That brought their list down to about 58,000. That nearly shocked my prospect when they realized that was their actual number.

But it didn't stop there, when we dove deeper into the list and looked at engagement, we found that over 20,000 contacts have not engaged with their content in over a year. Now that 95,000 list is actually down to about 38,000 contacts. Needless to say, there as a bit of shock at that point. After the shock wore off, they responded ”well at least I have 38,000 potentially good contacts to market to”.

Here in lies the problem, 20,000 unengaged contacts that are being marketed to that have zero interest in your marketing. Now if you have done any research on email deliverability, you know that engagement does play a role in email deliverability, and that lack of engagement was a hinderance to this client landing their messages in the inbox and not in the spam folder. But wait...there's more.

But, I didn’t stop there! As it turned out, this list has never been cleaned and the potential client has relied on their Email Service Provider (ESP) to manage the list. They thought what many small businesses owners think- my ESP controls deliverability. They thought that all bounces were handled (and a good amount were) and that’s all they had to worry about. Here now lies the bigger problem: not knowing they had to pay attention to list hygiene and email deliverability, how to do it and what to look for!

The fact for them, as with most every client I’ve been speaking too recently, is there’s a very high likelihood that a major portion of that list (38,000) is dirty - I mean toxic! It is that toxicity that is causing their email deliverability rates and inbox placement (yes there is a difference) to steadily decline.

So how do beat poor deliverability?

It’s said that the easiest way to beat poor deliverability and ensure that your messages actually reach the inbox is to remove people from your list that haven't been opening reading or licking your emails. But, list cleaning by itself isn't enough even though we all wished it was that simple.

To help you in the fight to reach the inbox and avoid having an unengaged list, here are 6 strategies to help you reach the inbox and avoid the spam or promotions folder beside the obvious of cleaning your email list regularly.

Ask Permission To Market - Beyond Can-Spam, CASL, and GDPR laws governing the sending of email, your subscribers see their inbox as a private place. You must consider the perspective of the customer.

Set Proper Expectations - Clarifying what you are sending and how often one is likely to receive an email. As you look at your email frequency, it is important to note that 49% of email subscribers opt-out because they receive too many emails!

Avoid Deception - Stay away from using unethical practices such as deceptive headlines and hiding the unsubscribe link. you may bypass the spam filter, but you will diminish your credibility.

Segment Your List - Segmented email marketing campaigns get almost 15% more email opens and nearly 60% more clicks compared to non-segmented campaigns. You can create customer segmentation by interests and behavior with the emails (creating a dialogue with your prospects rather than a monologue) as well as segment by engagement and yes there are tools that will enable you to do that automatically.

Let Contacts Unsubscribe - Do not hide your Unsubscribe link, remember it's not about the size of your list, it is about how engaged it is. Let contacts that want to go away just go. Making it hard for them to go will only hurt you and your sender reputation as they will only delete future emails or mark them as spam, both if which have a negative effect on email deliverability!

Regularly Scrub your List - Dormant email accounts (emails that are not logged into) can turn toxic extremely quickly. ISP's convert dormant accounts to spam traps at varying rates anywhere from 60 to 180 days. If you ever wondered how a clean list can have a spam trap and turn bad, that's how. At the very least, you should be scrubbing your list bi-annually. I have other clients that scrub every three months and some that segment their lists based on engagement and scrub the unengaged monthly and immediately remove any bad contacts from their lists.

If your emails don't actually make it to the user’s inbox, they are useless. You have to take a proactive approach to the deliverability of your emails, you must pay attention to the basic fundamentals of email deliverability and those are to maintain a clean and engaged list, not just a big list.

If you would like to dive into your email hygiene and deliverability, schedule a free consultation and assessment here.

Sep 11

Two Reasons To Focus On Email Deliverability

There are 2 major reasons you should care about your email deliverability.

Unfortunately, there’s a big myth out there that leads many to believe that their Email Service provider (like Infusionsoft or ActiveCampaign) is responsible for their email deliverability problems.

Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth, which may leave you scratching your head wondering what's all the hoopla when it comes to email deliverability.

Whether you’re unsure how deliverability impacts your success, or if you’re just not convinced it’s that big of a deal, I wanted to help bring clarity to the sometimes-mysterious topic.

Two Reasons To Focus On Email Deliverability

Here’s two big reasons why email deliverability should definitely be on your radar:

Reason #1: You actually want people to read your emails.

I know, this one is kind of a no brainer. Of course you want people to read your emails! But, there’s a whole lot that has to occur to make that happen. A big part of getting eyes on your emails has to do with email deliverability.  Meaning, getting the email to their primary inbox.

Unless you pay careful attention to the things that impact your deliverability, and yes there are many, the basic goal of getting people to read your emails becomes extremely challenging to say the least.

So what are several factors that affect whether or not you have good email deliverability?

  • Your email reputation.

Every email sender has an email reputation or sender score This score is generated by Internet Service Providers like Comcast and Cox, and mailbox providers like Gmail and Yahoo. The score is determined by a number of factors, like your email volume (how many emails you send), your complaint rates, your bounce rates (and ESP's like Infusionsoft and ActiveCampaign do NOT catch every bounce), how often you land in the spam folder, how many dormant (inactive/old addresses) you have, and many more.

If your reputation score is low, that could prevent your emails from landing in the inbox.

Fortunately, there are ways you can prevent hitting the spam or promotions folder, but it takes work!

Setting clear expectations about what you will be sending to your subscribers and sticking to it, sending email with content relevant to your subscribers (give them what they want), and only marketing to those that have requested it from you directly (not buying email lists or using JV lists) is a real good start. Respect your subscribers’ inbox as if it was your own is essential to keeping your deliverability strong. Remember, you can't sell anything to people who do not read your content!

Two tools to look at to help manage your email reputation are Sender Score from Return Path and MXtoolbox. Now just using these won't solve your problems with deliverability, but they will give you a good idea of problems that are occurring.

Reason #2: Nobody wants to be labeled a “spammer.”

I don’t recall anyone waking up in the morning and saying

“You know what I want to do today???
I want to send spammy emails.”

Unfortunately, many people send spam or engage in spammy behaviors without even knowing they are doing it.

So why is not sending spammy emails so important? If people indicate your messages are spam, that can certainly cause your deliverability to take a dip. When that happens, any future emails you send to other subscribers at the same email inbox provider (such as gmail or yahoo) will have an increased chance of ending up in the spam folder as well.

If you’re not sure if you’re sending spam, the following would be a pretty good indicator.

You send email content that doesn’t align with what your subscribers expect to receive from you. (completely going against what we said earlier)

The majority of your email content is too promotional. (People want to be led to a decision, not have promos sent to them every day over the course of 3 weeks)

Here are two tips to help you avoid sending spammy messages.

Provide value

Stick to the expectations you set when they requested information from you on opt-in

But Evan, I send regular, relevant content to my subscribers?

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, it's not your fault someone thinks your email is spam. People may realize that what you offer isn't what they need, or they came to the decision that just they just don't want to receive your emails anymore. We think they would just hit the unsubscribe that you have purposely buried or hidden in the bottom of the email, but sometimes they don't realize it is there and flag emails as spam to prevent your emails from clogging your inbox. They don't do it maliciously to harm you, they just do what they need to do to make sure they receive relevant content in their inbox.

Because of this it is important to ensure that the unsubscribe button is easy to find in your email (that means stop burying the unsubscribe link). You may also consider including some copy that tells people that if they no longer wish to receive your emails, they should unsubscribe from your and make it easy for them to do so.

One of our favorite strategies is the campaign kill button.  It stops the current campaign but, keeps them on your regular list thereby, helping to both track engagement and segment at the same time.  Building on Fundamentals, on the thank you page of the kill button, invite them to engage in a different product or service.

Remember, it is not the size of your list, it is how engaged it is. Get the unengaged out, keeping them will only hurt your deliverability.

For people who do want to receive your emails, ask them to add your “From Address” to their contact list. You can even go as far as directing them to add you to their contact list on your thank page. Or, you can even ask them to drag your email from the promotions tab to primary tab in gmail. Being added to a contact list and doing these other steps helps improve your email reputation score, which in turn means more of your emails will get routed to the inbox instead of the spam folder. This is commonly known as whitelisting your email. 

Attaining High Email Deliverability

Email deliverability needs to be a key focus of any marketing plan! It takes focus and diligence, it is not set it and forget it and your ESP won't deal with it for you.

To borrow an idea from Zig Ziglar, ”People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing, that’s why we recommend it daily.”

What we say is, “Your email list doesn’t stay clean and engaged, that’s why we recommend cleaning it monthly.” Not as eloquent but has the same meaning.

Make email deliverability a focus in your business!

If you need help with your email deliverability, schedule a no obligation consultation here

Aug 21

The 3 E’s of email deliverability

The success of your email deliverability and marketing campaigns is based on a range of factors such as subject lines, offers, copy, etc.

But there’s one key thing everyone MUST PAY ATTENTION to before you even think about about hitting send on your next email campaign.

That thing is the hygiene or cleanliness of your email list.

Even if you built your list the right way (you didn't purchase a list, scrape the internet, get a list from a JV partner etc) if you are not practicing proper list hygiene, there is an extremely high chance that you could be considered a spammer in the eyes of the ISP's.

Here is why:

The Problems

1) Expired emails = Inactive subscribers - ISPs base complaint rates on active subscribers, not total subscribers.

If your list is loaded with emails that are inactive, you will never have a clear picture of what your true complaint rate is. While many marketers just look at total complaints over total list size ( you sent 25,000 emails and had 25 complaints), ISPs (internet service providers) are actually looking at total complaints over number of active email users.

Let's show an example. You have a email sending out to 5,000 contacts. Suppose your email to 5,000 addresses only makes it to 2000 inboxes and then generates 40 complaints. A marketer might think their complaint rate is only 1% (40 / 5,000). Unfortunately the ISP's will calculate a rate of 2.5% (40 / 2000) -- a rate that is will likely get you blocked by certain ISPs. The ISP's base it on emails delivered not the total sent!

ISPs started caring about active users when they caught on to a loophole that spammers with poor email sending habits were exploiting. That then carried over to those with poor email hygiene practices and had dirty lists. In an attempt to work the system, spammers started to stuff their lists with inactive email addresses. They did this because inactive accounts don't click spam buttons, and therefore, the total spam complaints would stay artificially low. Pretty Sneaky!

2) Expired email addresses turn into unknown accounts.

When an ISP sees that you’re sending to a large number of unknown accounts (accounts that cannot be verified), once again, they will suspect that you are sending spam messages. If you hit unknown accounts at a rate higher that 5%, it is very likely they will send your emails directly to the spam folder or could just block you completely.

3) Expired email addresses turn into spam traps.

Since spammers tend to buy and steal lists, ISPs resort to yet another method to track them down: ISPs mark abandoned or dormant email addresses as spam traps. A dormant email is an account that was once real and used, but is no longer active. It hasn't been logged into or is full and cannot receive emails anymore. This means that, even if you acquired emails in a legitimate manner, the dormant addresses may have been converted into spam traps. Hitting even just one spam trap in an email send can cause deliverability problems with the ISP's.

The Solution: Email List Hygiene

The solution to all three problems listed above is to regularly clean up your email list by removing those addresses that are no longer engaged and run regular hygiene scrubs to ensure you are keeping bad contacts out of your list. Monthly list scrubs is best, but at a minimum you should clean your list once a quarter.

You can also identify unengaged contacts with metrics such as opens, clicks or engagement reports. Aside from all of the money you will save from sending less email, you will achieve higher deliverability, a good email reputation with the ISP gods, and increase your ROI from your marketing campaigns!

If you would like to schedule a free consultation to discuss your email deliverability, go to my calendar and select a time to talk.

Aug 15

Why is email deliverability so important?

Email marketing, and specifically email deliverability, affects the livelihood of almost every business today. Unfortunately, email deliverability is not always talked about or understood. Nor are the effects that poor deliverability has on a sales funnel and profits.

When it comes to increasing your sales, you have two primary choices.

  1. Increase your ad spend to drive more leads.  
  2. Increase conversions and close more sales


You may be saying to yourself... "I have a great funnel in place already, I can't improve it".  You may not be able to improve your funnel, but you can increase the number of eyes that get to see your emails by improving your email hygiene practices which impact deliverability.   A delivered email, one that lands in the inbox rather than the promotional folder in gmail or the spam folder, has a greater chance of being read.

Think of it this way, let’s say you had a new product for $197.  If you have a list of 4,000 and you get an open rate of 10% = 400 opens. 

Now, of the opened emails, 25% buy your offer = 100 new sales.  
$197 x 100 = $19,700 !!

What if you wanted to double that?  And, what if you have optimized your funnel as best you can.  You can spend money on ads and 2-3x your add spend to double your sales.  OR, you can get more emails in to the inbox to be opened.  You accomplish that with good email hygiene and email deliverability.

If you were to clean your list, practice good deliverability habits, and you removed the toxins in your list, your list might drive down to 3,500 but, a result is that you could increase your deliverability by 50%.  And, in doing so, present your emails to more people and, you can go from an open rate of 10% of 4,000 emails to 25% on 3,500 emails = 875 opens.  Assuming the same 25% of the opens buy your offer = 875 x 25% = 218 new sales.  An increase of 118 customers x $197 = an addition $23,246  

The ONLY thing you fixed was your deliverability and inbox placement.

You see, it is really simple, if your messages are not reaching your intended recipient then it doesn't matter how great of a funnel you have built, it just won't convert any higher than where it is currently.

Even if you spend money on ads, the list is toxic and will begin to impact the deliverability of the newly added contacts.  Therefore, clean your list, keep it clean, generate more sales, then start to grow your list, the clean way.

A consistent focus on email hygiene and marketing practices is vital if you are going to scale your business, increase conversion rates, and improve your ROI.

The point here is for you to start maximizing the opportunities that you already have rather than just continue to spend money on more leads who won’t get your emails. 

You do that by ensuring your emails actually make it to the inbox!

If you want to start learning more about email deliverability, download our free eBook The 5 Tips To Avoid The Spam Folder & Land In The Inbox!

May 01

GDPR 101: The new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance date is rapidly approaching (May 25, 2018).  Recent surveys show that less than 60% of UK businesses will be ready for the new GDPR regulations with that number being even lower for  businesses outside of the UK.  Computer Weekly reports that almost 80%of US firms will be affected by the new GDPR standards and penalties. 

The GDPR does not just apply to European businesses, it applies to to anyone that has a singe contact in their database that resides in the UK.  So, should you be worried? The bottom line is the GDPR will likely affect the way you do business and you must be aware of the new GDPR regulations and prepare for them.

This post is designed to give you the basics and requirements of the GDPR.  

What is the new General Data Protection Regulation

The GDPR is a regulation in the EU covering privacy for all individuals within the European Union.  The GDPR addresses the export of personal data outside of the EU.  The GDPR is designed to give EU residents control over their personal data and to simplify the regulations for international businesses.

The reform is designed to bring laws and regulations around personal data, privacy and consent up to speed to truly reflect the new internet age we live in.

Under the GDPR, organizations and those that collect and manage personal data must ensure that the data is collected legally and under strict conditions as well as respect the rights of the owners of that data(the individual).

Who does the EU GDPR apply to?

The GDPR applies to organizations that handle personally identifiable information on European citizens.  This not only applies to companies in Europe>  If you deal with or are storing data on individuals that reside in the EU, this applies to you.  

If you happen to be a business outside of the UK or EU, you may be thinking that this does not apply to you.  Think again.  The GDPR DOES APPLY to non EU/UK based businesses and with the cooperation of local authorities will enforce the regulation on you.

As you dive into the regulation, it identifies two types of data-handlers, processors and controllers. dohProcessors are the entity that processes data on behalf of the Data Controller.  

The Controller is defined as the natural or legal person, public authority, agency or other body which, alone or jointly with others, determines the purposes and means of the processing of personal data. The data controller determines the purposes for which and the manner in which personal data is processed. It can do this either on its own or jointly or in common with other organizations. This means that the data controller exercises overall control over the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of a data processing activity.

The data processor is defined as a natural or legal person, public authority, agency or other body which processes personal data on behalf of the controller.

In simple terms, you as a business owner are more than likely the controller and the Marketing solutions, CRM you use etc. are the processor.

What type of data is considered personal data under the GDPR?

The types of data considered personal (PII, Personal Identifiable Information) under the GDPR include: name, address, IP address and photos.  It also includes sensitive personal data such as genetic data, and biometric data which could be processed to uniquely identify an individual.

How does the GDPR affect you?

GDPR establishes one law across the continent and a single set of rules which apply to companies doing business within EU member states.. This means the reach of the legislation extends further than the borders of Europe itself, as international organizations based outside the region but with activity on 'European soil' will still need to comply.

GDPR guidelines state that an entity can face fines of up to 20 million Euros or 4% of their Global Annual Turnover (AKA “revenue” in the U.S.), whichever is greater. That is speaking in maximum fines and as of now, there does not appear to be guidance on specific amounts for violation types as of yet. 

Types of violations include: infringements of the rights of the data subjects, unauthorized international transfer of personal data, failure to report a breach, and failure to put procedures in place for or ignoring access requests for their data.

What do you need to do prior to May 25th?

1.  Understand the law: Know what your obligations are under GDPR as it relates to collecting, storing, and processing data.

2. Create a Data Map: Document your data flow.  Identify your data sources and what information can be found in each.  You will need to to Determine the following:  

  • What data you hold, where it came from and whom you share it with.  
  • What Information you have on UK/EU residents.
  • Which third party service provides you use and ensure they are compliant with GDPR

Once you have determined the above, you will need to update your privacy policies to ensure they address and comply with the GDPR

3.  Gain Explicit Consent: Consent needs to occur for marketers and business owners on 2 fronts.  First you need to gain proper consent on all new opt-ins into your system. This goes for Lead Generation as well as sales.  If you operate a E-Commerce business, you will want to garner consent to market on your order forms in order to follow up with marketing other.  Consent needs to be obtained for\r both new contacts as well as your existing Database.  Yes, this does mean you should re-permission and clean your database.  Here are guidelines for what the GDPR considers consent:

  • Contain a clear statement of consent using plain english that is easy to understand
  • Be separate from any other terms and conditions
  • Explain why you want the data and what you will do with it
  • Require a positive optin (no pre-checked boxes)
  • Name third party controllers that will rely on consent
  • Explain how the contact may withdraw consent (opt-out or be forgotten)
  • Avoid making consent a pre-condition of service

4. Update your privacy policies: Your privacy policies need to be updated to reflect the new GDPR regulations.  these policies should be clear and easy to understand.  they need to cover exactly what data you collect and how you use it.  this includes not only the obvious PII (name, email etc) but also cookies, pixels, tracking mechanisms and even affiliate links.

What Else Should I be aware of?

To dive in and learn everything there is to know about the GDPR, check out the link here to the EU GDPR Website.

P.S. We are not lawyers and this should not be taken as legal advise, but as guidelines as to what you need to know and what you need to do to be prepared.


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