How To Maximize Email Deliverability
Want better email deliverability with Infusionsoft? Want to reach more inboxes with your email?
Anyone who’s a Infusionsoft user and having trouble reaching enough inboxes with their email campaigns you will want to watch (or read) this article.
A Thoroughbred In Email Deliverability
He will obviously introduce himself shortly.
The whole reason why I wanted to put together a series of webinars and masterclasses is to share with people some of the secrets I’ve picked up as an Infusionsoft Certified Partner (ICP) for about five years ( and an Infusionsoft user for 11 years).
As business owners, we sometimes become very isolated and don’t keep up to speed with what’s going on in our industry.
Adrian is certainly one of the few (and I think I could count them on two fingers) who are true email deliverability experts out there. He’s also an Infusionsoft expert too.
I thought it was incredibly timely to have this webinar now as we come up to Black Friday. I’m not saying it’s going to sort everything out in time but I think it’s a really apt time to discuss email deliverability.
Adrian’s got some fantastic tips to help you get more of your emails delivered on time, so, without further ado, I’ll hand you over to the very capable hands of Mr. Adrian Savage.
Adrian Introducing Adrian Savage.
Hi, everyone. Email deliverability has always been one of those hot topics that people talk a lot about.
The most common thing I hear people say is: “I don’t know how to improve my email deliverability.”
Email marketing really has changed recently – and it’s changed forever. I’ll talk about how we’ve got three giants that now dominate the email world.
I’ll also talk about the greatest challenges that you face with email deliverability that most people don’t know.
Then we’ll get into how to win the email race to the inbox and what that actually means.
I’ve also got three things that you can do right now to get more emails into the inbox.
But first…A little background
I’ll just very quickly introduce myself.
I’m a Dad, I’ve got two kids that are pretty much grown up now and a stepdaughter who lives with me, so they’re all kind of college, university age.
I get a bit more time to myself than I used to. I’ve become even geekier than I was when I started (when I was about seven years old).
I’ve been an entrepreneur for about eight years now. My business now is the Deliverability Lab.
That’s what I specialize in, email deliverability. That is all I do. I’ve worked in IT since I was about seven years old and made my first money when I was nine, getting a little program written in a UK magazine called Practical Computing that is long gone.
My first computer was a good old Apple too. I was one of the original Apple fanboys even back then.
I’ve used Infusionsoft for the last nine years and have been an Infusionsoft Consultant and Infusionsoft Certified Partner for the last eight years.
I’ve been creating software and tools and things to help people with their email deliverability for the last five years.
I’ve seen how everyone needs help with their email deliverability. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve got a few hundred on your list or a few hundred thousand. The principals are the same.
Obviously, the bigger your email list is the more of an impact working on your email deliverability will have.
Really, anyone needs to know the real fundamental principles that I’m going to share today.
My specialist area is email deliverability for small businesses and, as Damian said, you don’t need two hands to count the number of people that do this, particularly within the Infusionsoft space.
There’s probably only me, Evan Samarin, Mark Penny, and Jordan Hatch and that’s it. No-one else really looks at email deliverability as a specialist subject.
I am a geek, but I’ve taken my anti geek pills and I will make sure that I keep this as simple as I can.
The challenge that we’ve got with email deliverability is that it can get very detailed and technical. I will try and keep it at a simple level.
Meet the enemy
I’m going to start by introducing the enemy.
You’ve probably heard of Cisco and Talos is a Cisco company that deals with email threat prevention and detection.
One of the things they do is identify spam emails and they help their clients avoid spam. This is the daily email volume in October this year and it’s quite staggering to see that 85% of all emails being sent according to Cisco are spam.
That’s 427 billion emails every day being sent out by spammers compared with only 69 billion emails that are actually legitimate.
It doesn’t matter which email provider we use, whether it’s Gmail or Hotmail, it doesn’t matter. They have got a huge job on their hands to try and keep the spam emails from reaching our inboxes.
Obviously, the challenge that they face is that they can’t get it totally right. Does that mean that they filter out a few too many emails, so we don’t see legitimate ones or do they let a few of the spammy ones through?
The big challenge we’ve got is that it is not an exact science. They’ve got all kinds of artificial intelligence, machine learning, you name it. They are throwing everything they’ve got at this.
One of the reasons for that obviously is that the biggest email provider out there provides free email to people. They’re making their money out of the advertising that they get to show when emails are opened.
If you look in particular at Google, Hotmail and Yahoo, they want people to open as many emails as possible so that they can show as many adverts as possible and hence make as much money as possible.
That’s what drives a lot of their filtering algorithms and decisions. You’ll often find that if your audience is using a paid-for email provider (and probably the best examples are either G Suite from Google or Office 365 from Microsoft) you sometimes get a different level of spam filtering for these people.
Understanding your audience becomes very, very important.
Do you think this statement is true or false?
Email deliverability is the responsibility of your email provider (Infusionsoft or whoever else you might use)?
To be completely clear, some of the responsibility sits with Infusionsoft, without a doubt, because they have to maintain their own reputation. However, a lot of the responsibility lies absolutely with the person sending the emails. We’ll talk about two different types of reputation later on.
Moving on, email marketing really has changed forever in the last year or two.
The first thing I want to point out is that the giants have taken controls. There are only 9% of emails that don’t belong to either Google, Microsoft or Yahoo and AOL.
What that’s saying is that there are three very big companies that pretty much decide whether or not your emails are going to get through to your audience.
Now, sometimes you might have a slightly more specialized audience. I’ve got one client who is completely business to business, with lots of financial companies.
They mainly use corporate providers and you’ll see things like Mimecast and Proofpoint and Spam Guard and things like that. The majority of people will see that there’s always a very big chunk of Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo. Which means that if it’s their game, it’s their rules, we have to play by their rules.
We can’t just send emails out like we used to. We can’t build a massive list and just email the crap out of it until people buy, unsubscribe or die. That’s what we were told to do 10 years ago and it worked back then.
It doesn’t work anymore. I think most people know that.
It’s a very tough conversation I have with a client when they first come on board and we start to about how size no longer matters. It is about quality, not quantity.
There are all kinds of sexist jokes that I could make, though I won’t.
I will just throw into the mix that when I suggest to my clients that they start to remove a lot of their email addresses from their database, I have more of a challenge having that conversation with men than women.
I will let you draw what conclusion you want from that.
It is very clear now that it’s not about the size of your database, it’s about how good the quality is. I’ll talk a lot about that later on as well.
In many cases, people’s mentality hasn’t changed and they still want to basically throw as much crap at the walls and see what sticks. It has worked in the past and sometimes people are very resistant to change. I think, if that’s the case, fair enough.
What I’m seeing is that you can make a massive difference to your email performance just by doing some simple things.
One of the things that I will quickly cover now is a good open rate. We’ve already had people saying “We had 60% a while ago and that’s dropped to 28%”. Someone else said that they’ve gone from 10% down to 5 or 6%.
There’s always a wide range of open rates. I often make the tongue in cheek comment that I can double anyone’s open rate overnight.
The way I’ll do that is to just delete half of the emails from your database that aren’t opened and suddenly your open rate is doubled.
As I will cover in a minute, the open rate only tells a little part of the story.
The Greatest Challenges With Email
What I’m going to move onto now is just a very quick summary of the greatest challenges that many people don’t even know about.
Email deliverability vs. inbox placement
The starting point is about email deliverability as opposed to inbox placement.
Some people call it delivery. Some people call it email deliverability, but we are going to be very clear here that there are two different things in play here.
The first thing is the job of getting the email from the Infusionsoft email server to the email server of your recipient. That bit there is delivery in its truest sense
Deliverability is how good Infusionsoft is at sending the email where it should go.
What you’ll find is that Infusionsoft, just like most other email marketing providers, has a very high rate of email delivery. They can get the email from your Infusionsoft account to the server, whether it’s Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, GoDaddy, it doesn’t matter. They’re very good at that. That’s what their software is designed to do.
In most cases, if the email doesn’t get through, it’s unlikely to be the fault of Infusionsoft. It’s more likely to be a problem with the receiving server. It might go offline or refuse to accept the email or something like that.
What happens when an email gets sent? There is a little conversation between the Infusionsoft server and, let’s say, the Gmail server.
The Infusionsoft server says, “Hello, I’m Infusionsoft. I would like to send you an email please.”
The Google server replies saying, “Okay, send me an email. Who is it to?”
The Infusionsoft server will say, “This email is to Damian@gmail.com.”
Then Gmail will say, “Okay, send me the mail.” Infusionsoft sends it through.
Then the response from the Google server is, “Okay, I have received your message.”
From that point, when Infusionsoft gets that message saying that the message has been received by the other end, Infusionsoft is out of the picture.
They have done their job and that happens 99.99 (however many nines) percent of the time.
If that goes wrong, the main reason is either because the email box no longer exists or it’s full. Or there might be a few other reasons that the email might get rejected.
In most cases, if the email gets rejected, you will know about that because you’ll get a bounce and we can talk about that later on.
That bit we can measure very easily but what we can’t measure is what happens after that.
How To Measure It…
That is the big thing because just because Google has accepted the email for delivery doesn’t mean that they are going to put it into the inbox. They can do whatever they want with it and they often do.
Microsoft is sometimes a bigger offender than Google at this. This is one of the reasons that I first started creating email deliverability software five years ago because some clients were finding emails sent to Office 365 addresses were actually being trashed by Microsoft.
Infusionsoft sent an email. Microsoft received it and said, “I have accepted your message.” Then they threw that message into the garbage. It never even made it to the spam folder.
The decisions that email providers like Microsoft, Google and Yahoo can make is to either deliver the email to the inbox; or put it into something like the promotions tab, in the case of Gmail; or put it into the junk or the clutter folder if it’s Microsoft; or they’ll put it into the spam folder; or, in some extreme circumstances, they might literally discard that email and it will never be seen again and there’s no way for the recipient to even find it.
Now, the challenge that we face is that it is completely impossible to measure and determine what happens to that email once it’s reached the foreign server.
There are some mail testing tools out there that claim that they can tell you. To a certain extent, they can but only for one specific test mailbox that you’re sending it to. The same way that you might get anecdotal evidence from people saying your email was going into my spam folder: “Why do I never receive your emails?”
Moving Swiftly On To The Third Challenge We Face…
Just because an email goes into one person’s spam folder, it doesn’t mean it goes into someone else’s
I think it was Google that pioneered this approach and now pretty much everyone does it. Email filtering is not done on a global level. It is done based on every single individual user.
If I ignore emails from one particular sender, those emails are more likely to go into my spam folder. However, someone else who opens the same emails from the same sender might receive them in their inbox.
It’s very personalized. It’s very hard to predict what’s going to happen even if you do testing.
The only visibility we’ve got of this is the open rates, which is probably the least exact science known to man. It’s very difficult to really know what’s happening. We can only make educated guesses.
Now, something else that you may or may not know is that while Infusionsoft reports the number of spam complaints that you have received, it will never tell you about complaints that have been received from Gmail users.
The reason for that is that when you click the spam button in Gmail or in Hotmail or any other provider, it’s up to that email box providers to send a message back to Infusionsoft saying, “This user just reported you for spam.”
Gmail doesn’t do that. Gmail keeps everything very close to its chest and builds up a little dossier of who are the good and the bad senders, but they don’t share it with anyone. They don’t send specific information back.
What that means is that if you’ve got an audience of 10,000 and you send an email out and get 10 spam complaints, if Google makes up about half of your email database, the chances are that another 10 people also hit the spam button in Gmail that you don’t know about it and you never will.
That’s something to bear in mind: just because you see a certain number of spam complaints, it doesn’t mean that it’s all you’re getting because Google and some other systems do not send any information back to Infusionsoft.
A spam trap is an email address that is not a legitimate email address operated by a real person.
It could be someone like Gmail or Hotmail operating their own spam trap or a third-party provider like Spamhaus or various others that make money out of detecting who is sending spam and sharing details of the spammers.
There are two main types of spam traps. The first one that is hopefully a very rare one that you’re unlikely to see on your own email database is what’s called a pristine spam trap. This is a spam trap that has never ever been used to receive legitimate email. The purpose of it is to catch those naughty people who buy email address lists or scrape them off the internet.
A pristine spam trap address will be published somewhere on a webpage or on social media and no one will ever opt-in for the mailing list.
If this address gets harvested and added to someone’s email database and then email gets sent to that address, this is proof right that someone has adopted a suspicious way of collecting email addresses because they’ve either paid someone else to do it or they’ve actually scraped them off the internet themselves.
Anytime an email sender sends an email to one of these functional addresses, they’re going to be blacklisted quite quickly. So, it’s very important to avoid that.
This is one of the reasons why you shouldn’t scrape addresses off the internet. It can be very dangerous.
The second type of spam trap is a lot more common and chances are we have all inadvertently come across these because of the way they work.
A recycled spam trap will start life as a legitimate email address. As an example, once upon a time, I had a Hotmail address and around 10 or 12 years ago, I stopped using it.
When that happens, Microsoft will wait and see and make sure it really is a dormant account. Then, once they shut it down, they will then start rejecting emails sent to that address for a certain amount of time.
If someone tried to send an email to my old Hotmail address, they would have received a bounce saying that the address no longer exists.
After another month or a few months, they will re-open that email address but it’s no longer used to collect emails for me. It’s used by Microsoft (being Hotmail) to catch people who aren’t keeping their lists clean.
When you send emails to your audience and an email address stops working, it will bounce and it should be removed from your mailing list.
Obviously, Infusionsoft does that automatically. If an email address hard bounces and it comes back saying, “No such user,” Infusionsoft will automatically unsubscribe that address. This means that you can’t mail them by accident in the future.
However, not everyone mails their list all that often. I’ve been guilty of this myself. It’s often 6 months or even 12 months between me emailing most of my audience.
Now, in that case, it’s plenty of time for some addresses to have been turned from real addresses into bouncing addresses and then back into spam traps.
When a recycle spam trap receives an email, it doesn’t give you too much of a black mark straight away but they use it to gather big data.
If they can see that one person is making lots of spam traps and they’re repeatedly mailing the same addresses, it’s a sure sign that this particular sender isn’t keeping their email list clean. They’re not looking after it.
When that happens, it can start to hurt your reputation and the more spam traps you hit and the more often you mail them is obviously going to hurt you quite badly.
I’ll talk later on about how you can avoid that. There are so many different challenges that you face when you’re sending emails but these are just some of them that I picked out.
4 key Areas That Determine Whether Or Not You Make It To The Inbox
The acronym that I’ve created for this is RACE, which stands for reputation, authentication, content, and engagement.
I’m just going to share a couple of the most important things for each of these now. I just want to stress that this really is the tip of the iceberg. There are so many different things that you can do to keep on top of all of this.
The starting point then is reputation and there are two very key different areas of reputation.
The first one is the server reputation and it’s the job of Infusionsoft to look after that.
The big challenge that you’ve got with server reputation is that it’s dependent on all the people that use that system as well as how good that system is at actually protecting themselves.
You may or may not have already been on the receiving end of an email from Infusionsoft. Sometimes they are quite stern in saying that they’ve found a problem with your email sending.
Now, that can be lots of things. It could be that you’re getting too many spam complaints. It could be getting too many emails bouncing. The reason they have to police this very carefully is that they’re looking to protect their collective reputation, based on all of their different users.
It’s very important that Infusionsoft will very quickly catch people who are getting too many spam complaints or too many bounces.
If they are identified as sending too many spam complaints or anything else that hurts their reputation, there can be a massive backlash against Infusionsoft.
Google, Microsoft, Yahoo or even smaller providers will very quickly find that some of the server addresses get blacklisted.
The good news is that Infusionsoft, along with all the other email providers, has very good teams (email compliance teams and the wider email team) looking out for the servers.
They are working pretty much around the clock to make sure that their reputation stays as clean as it can be and that any time spam does get through:
• They cut off the person who sent the spam.
• If they did get blacklisted, they get it unblocked.
This is one of the areas where people say “ConvertKit is better than Infusionsoft” or “Infusionsoft is better than Active Campaign” or whatever.
To be honest, I’ve worked with clients that use all these different mail platforms and, in every case, I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly.
I think it’s fair to say that the server reputation on a bad day might impact things for a little while but it always gets fixed very quickly.
In general, it’s more the domain reputation that I’ll talk about next that makes the big difference.
The domain reputation is essentially the part after the app signs in your email address that identifies that the email came from you.
In the past, everything was based on the server reputation but these days I would say that the majority of reputation and how it affects inbox placement is based on your sending domain.
It doesn’t matter if you switch email providers or whatever else you do, your reputation will follow you around.
If you start getting lots and lots of spam complaints or bounces on one platform, moving to another platform won’t help that because it’s still your own domain.
Authentication explains how we actually prove that the emails came from you. Domain reputation is absolutely massive and there are some fairly simple things that you can do to protect yours.
The most important one is: stick to your promises. If you say you’re going to mail someone once a week when they opt-in, mail them once a week. Don’t spam them with 10 emails a day because they’ll get upset and complain.
Do the common sense things so that people continue to like your content and to like what you’re sending, so they don’t complain.
Getting people to unsubscribe if they don’t want your stuff is great because that doesn’t hurt anyone’s reputation; but as soon as they start hitting the spam button, it’s going to cause you a problem.
One thing that people used to do it (I’m sure that no one listening to this does) is to put maybe 20 or 30 blank lines at the end of their email so that the unsubscribe link wouldn’t be visible.
Well, guess what, that just means you get more spam complaints. Don’t do that. Make sure your unsubscribe link is nice and prominent because you’d rather lose a subscriber than get a spam complaint.
I also mentioned spam traps. You can protect your reputation by making sure you don’t mail spam traps.
That’s something that I will talk a little bit more about because there are solutions to prevent that. There’s lots more I could say about reputation but I’ll move straight on to authentication.
This is the process of:
• Telling the world who you trust to send emails on your behalf.
• Signing your emails to say that they’re really from you.
• Telling the world what to do if a spoofed email comes along as well.
The first thing (telling the world who to trust to send emails) is something called SPF, which stands for Sender Policy Framework.
This is probably going to be the most technical part, I’m afraid: a few acronyms flying around here. The simple advice I’ve got for you is that if you haven’t heard of this before, you probably haven’t got it set up. And. if you haven’t got it set up, you need to get it set up.
If you’re not sure how to do it yourself, please get some help because if you get it wrong, then it can actually mean that it can stop your emails from getting through.
If you don’t have this authentication in place, your emails are perceived by the likes of Gmail and Microsoft to be much less legitimate than if you’ve got it set up.
SPF is a way of telling the world who you trust to send your emails. If you use Infusionsoft, then you could only ever have one SPF record and the SPF record will list all the different providers that you trust. Infusionsoft should be in there. If you’re using G Suite or Gmail, then Google should be listed there too.
In the same way, if you’re using Outlook, Microsoft should be listed and each provider that you work with will tell you how to actually set up your SPF record to include them.
The thing to watch out for is that you must never have more than one. If you have two SPF records, they both get ignored. You can only have one SPF record to list who you trust. Make sure that Infusionsoft (or whoever your email provider is) in there.
If you’ve got some kind of membership site, where emails are sent from, you might need to put its address in there too. Be very careful not to miss anything. That’s SPF.
What If You Have Multiple SPFs?
Combined into one record. You publish it using your DNS control panel. You can put multiple instructions into the one SPF record. If you’ve got two, remove one of them and you merge the content together.
Infusionsoft publishes their own SPF record because when they send emails out, they actually have two addresses in them. It has the Infusionsoft server address, which you might’ve seen in the past where it says, email@example.com but it’s also got your own address. Infusionsoft has got their SPF set up for their address and then you need to set it up for your address as well.
The second one is even more important. That’s DKIM, which stands for Domain Keys Identified Email.
This is where the platform that is sending the emails (such as Infusionsoft or Gmail) actually adds a digital signature to every single email that you send.
You publish a public key and then you can sign it with a private key so that no one else can actually sign these emails on your behalf.
If an email goes out there without your DKIM signature, it can be treated as suspicious.
Infusionsoft has supported this for the last few years. If you don’t have DKIM set up inside Infusionsoft, please go and do it straight away.
You go to the mail settings and there’s an email authentication option in the settings. It is vital that you do this if you haven’t done so already.
The third authentication method is called DMARC.
The main purpose of DMARC is to tell the world what to do if an email that doesn’t pass the authentication test is received.
If someone is sending spoof emails pretending to be from you and you have set DMARC up, it will tell the world to reject any emails that aren’t signed as you.
Be very careful though: if you get DMARC wrong, all the legitimate emails that you send will be rejected!
If you’re not sure, don’t set it up or set it up with an empty policy. DMARC is the one to be most careful of.
Content Is King
I’m now going to touch only very briefly on content because this could literally fill a webinar in itself.
The content of your emails can make a huge difference as to whether you end up in the spam box or in the inbox.
Certainly, if you write an email claiming to be a Nigerian Prince and asking for someone’s bank details, the machine learning filters will spot that and put it in the spam folder, along with all the Viagra emails.
The problem is that they’re getting a lot cleverer than that, so they’re not just looking for keywords anymore. They’re analyzing the whole email, looking at images and everything else, including the links.
There are so many things that can be put into an email that will send it to the spam folder.
If you mention a particular domain name that’s blacklisted, it’s a sure-fire way of going to the spam folder.
If you’ve got too many links in your emails, then it’s probably going to send the email to promotions.
So, go back to the good old marketing rule of having one call to action and one link.
If you repeat the same link six times in emails or repeat your call to action, you are really shooting yourself in the foot because Infusionsoft puts a unique link ID onto each link that you include in an email.
Even if you put the same link six times, it would appear to be six different links to Gmail. Don’t repeat the link.
One clear call to action, a nice prominent button and then if you’re going to repeat the call to action in your email copy, just change it slightly.
So, one says “go” and the other says “click the button above”.
If people are sending out a newsletter with half a dozen different subjects and little teasers and links to our blog articles, that’s still okay. But there’s a very interesting controversial school of thought now, which says don’t send newsletters because no one reads them!
I’m not going to get involved in that particular debate. It’s definitely worth making sure that newsletters contain good content and ideally have little links in there so that you can track whether they’re engaging and clicking through. That’s one of the few cases where it’s okay to have more links.
Note that if you’ve got too many images in your mail (even logos count as images), it may look like a promotion, so it will go in the promotions tab.
I think Michael Hyatt’s emails is one of the biggest senders of volume email text. He removed all of the graphics from his emails. No more pretty headlines. Just one little image at the bottom and he saw his engagement improved massively.
Your audience might be different but, in most cases, if you send very simple plain-looking emails, you will get better open rates and better engagement.
Remember, the content side of things includes things like the subject line, the wording, lots of things. If in doubt, test different approaches and see what works but always bear in mind that the content can make a big, big difference.
What’s Best Practice On Subject Line Content?
You can ask 20 people and you’ll get 20 different opinions. When you’re sending an email out, assuming somebody sees your email in their inbox, the only things that will influence them to open or not is the subject line and a little bit of preview text that you can put in.
The general consensus is shorter subject lines work better than longer ones.
Personalized ones can sometimes help but, to be honest, I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly.
Again, it depends on what the audience is used to receiving. I don’t think really long subject lines work that much and if you’re going to use a one-word subject line every now and then, that’s cool.
If every single email you send out had one word in the subject line, then maybe would people get tired of that as well.
Make sure that it’s not confusing people. If you send an email about free beer and the email has nothing to do with free beer, you’re going to upset people as well.
I think it’s got to be fairly congruent. But yeah, the content is the toughest one to give advice on because there are so many variables depending on the audience in general.
Fairly short, concise, personalized subject lines are probably still the best most of the time.
What About Using Words Such As “FREE” and Using Exclamation Marks?
Multiple exclamation marks or exclamations mixed with question marks are definitely going to trigger some kind of content filtering.
The word “free” is better than the ones that use “FR.E.E.” or something else. If you try to mask something, it’s worse than using the word itself.
If you’re giving something away for free and you mentioned the word “free” once or twice in the email, that’s okay. If every other word is free, then that’s more spammy.
I guess it’s about keeping the balance right. Yes, it might make a small difference but something like that isn’t going to make as much of a difference as if your domain reputation is shot to pieces.
If you imagine that an email can almost have a score between zero and 100. If it’s 100, it will go into the inbox and if it’s zero, it will go into the spam folder. If your domain reputation is toast, then maybe that might put your score down from 100 to 50.
If you’ve got the word “free” in there, it might take you from 100 to 95.
Many different factors get weighed up. I’d say don’t get too obsessed about the words you’re using. Just avoid using too much marketing jargon, slang words or putting the word “free” as every other word.
This is leaving the most important till last: engagement is now the one thing that email providers like Google will use to decide whether they think you’re good at email sending or not.
I use the Gmail app on my phone. At the top of all my emails, I get this unsolicited message from Google saying, “Do you want to unsubscribe from this sender? You haven’t opened any emails from them in the last month.”
That is as clear an indication as you can get that Google is putting a huge amount of importance on whether or not people are engaging with specific senders.
If you’ve got people on your email list that haven’t opened anything from you for months and months, Google is probably marking you down with a black mark because why would you want to waste time and send emails that nobody opens.
One of the biggest objections that I get, particularly from marketers with large email lists, is the age-old: “but I might get a 1% open rate from those people and they might buy something.”
Yeah, you might, but it’s 1% and if the 99% that aren’t opening. That means that you are 10 or 15% less likely to hit the inbox. I’ll let you do the math and work out which one is better.
There’s a strong argument that says, “Okay, completely stop emailing the people that haven’t engaged.” Then, at the same time, there can be an equally strong argument to say that maybe once every three months you might just give them one chance to reengage.
The big question here is what does engagement mean? What is engagement?
This is probably the most important thing you need to understand. It’s measured in two simple ways by Infusionsoft.
1. Whether someone filled out a web form
2. Whether they opened an email or they clicked on a link in an email.
That’s how you can tell if someone’s engaging. But the email providers like Google are looking for many other different indicators and they’re also looking for indicators that people aren’t engaged.
As an example, if someone hits the spam button, it’s probably the most extreme sign of disengagement.
If someone doesn’t open the emails and just leaves them in their inbox or if they delete them without reading them, it’s a strong sign of disengagement.
This will start to reduce your domain reputation with Google or whichever other email providers you’re looking at.
Beyond that, you’ve got the signs of engagement. Opening an email is a very clear sign of engagement.
In most cases, if a user clicks on a link, it doesn’t tell the email provider that they’re engaging because it’s not that easy to track link clicks via say work mail or something like that. However, if they’re opening the email, rescuing it from the spam folder, filing it, adding the user email address list, replying to the email, it’s a great sign of engagement.
You should be encouraging your audience to do that.
Getting people to reply to emails is one of the best things you can do.
If you’ve got 100,000 people on your list who you ask to reply and you get a thousand replies, you’d better make sure that you’ve got someone to follow up on those emails you receive. Otherwise, you just destroy your credibility at the same time as your reputation.
However, be very careful which tools and methods you use to get people to engage.
As a general rule of thumb, the more emails you send to the people that are likely to open them, the better the engagement you’ll get.
Let’s say you get a 25% open rate. If you send one email a week for a month with a 25% open rate, it won’t be the same 25% opening each email.
Sure, there’ll be quite an overlap but you might find that, on average, 50% of your audience ends up opening something from the four emails that you send.
Plenty Of Different Things You Can Do There.
Probably one of the biggest traps that people fall into, and I’ve seen this when I’ve analyzed Infusionsoft accounts and other similar accounts, is collecting hundreds or thousands or even tens of thousands of contacts that have never, ever opened anything from day one. Yet they just keep mailing those people.
In the case of one client, 25% of their entire email list had never opened anything and they were still mailing these people.
Fortunately, Infusionsoft gives you some great tools to help identify where people have engaged or not engaged.
Managing your email deliverability and engagement is probably the most important thing that you can do.
Typically, three to four months is the threshold beyond which you shouldn’t mail people if they haven’t opened anything. Maybe give them one last chance to re-engage.
You might have heard of re-engagement campaigns. I think Ryan Deiss made that quite famous with his machine and various other similar formula emails where people say, “Right, use these three emails to get people to re-engage with you and confirm they want to keep hearing emails from you.”
For example, if someone reaches 90 days without having opened anything, you might send them a fairly softly email saying, “Hey, I’ve just noticed you’ve not been reading my mails recently. Just click here if you’d like to stay on the list.”
Then there might be a slightly harder one. Then the third email might be, “Right. Okay, time to say goodbye. I’m going to delete you now unless you click here.”
Put them through that sequence. If they still haven’t opened or clicked by the end of that, then it’s time to stop emailing those people. This is really simple and really important.
3 Things You Can Do Right Now To Get More Emails Into Inboxes
1. Check your email health score
More about this in the free tools section that follows.
2. Include whitelisting instructions
This can be challenging if you’ve got a funnel where the ‘thank you’ page is actually a one-time offer.
You’ve got to look very carefully at whether the take-up of the offer is high enough to justify keeping it there or whether it makes more sense to get people to engage with you more by email.
When people fill in an email form and are met with the “thank you for signing up” page, it normally says something like “check your spam folder” but they won’t explain whitelisting and how to do it.
If you want someone to whitelist you properly with Gmail, ask them to create a filter that says when an email from XXXX is received, never send it to spam.
If your audience creates filters like this, you’re completely untouchable by Google spam filters. Once you’ve told Google that an address must never go to spam. Google will honor that.
Go to whitelist.guru. Chris Lang is one of the other email deliverability experts.
He doesn’t just work with Infusionsoft, he usually works with bigger clients and has created his own whitelisting instructions and a page that will actually generate your own personalized whitelisting instructions.
Go there, scroll down, enter your name, email address, and business name in and it will create personalized whitelisting instructions.
You can put it onto your “thank you” page. It’s definitely worth doing.
Not everybody will follow those instructions but the ones that really want to hear from you will look at it and take action. It makes a massive difference.
If you’ve got that and good follow up with those who download lead magnets, I’ve seen clients getting between 70 and 80% engagement in the first 30 days.
3. Scrub your list
What this actually means is taking all of your email addresses and running them through a third-party validator.
Doing this makes sure that:
• Each address is valid
• It’s not a spam trap, spambot or any other nasty thing
Bear in mind that some people are well-known for signing up and reporting you for spam. Some addresses do that regularly. There’s a database of these people.
Klean13 is my recommended “cleaning service”.
You can scrub your list by downloading it from Infusionsoft to a CSV and uploading it to the cleaning service.
It will then go through and give you the results. You download it, upload it and put it back into Infusionsoft. Then you have to merge all the data together, which is a bit of a long-winded job.
You’ll be happy to know that I’ve created a free email deliverability service within my Deliverability dashboard that I’ll talk about in a second that does all that in one place. You literally say, “I want to scrub all of the contacts with this tag” or “I want to scrub all the contacts on my list” and it will send all those details to Kleans13 for you. Then it will apply a tag to each contact saying “this one is verified”, “this one’s a spam trap”, “this one’s a role account”, “this one’s a complainant”. Etc.
It’s very quick and easy to do. You literally press the button, wait a few minutes (or hours, depending on how big your list is) and then all the results get tagged back into Infusionsoft.
The only thing you have to pay for is the actual fees for Klean13. You buy a certain number of contacts for a certain amount of money.
One thing that I’ll cover at this point too is spambots. In many cases, this will be the point where you get a random first name and last name and then an email address that might be a real email address or it might be some kind of Russian email address.
A lot of spambots appear to be from Russia. The worst ones are those that are really mail addresses because they’re using someone’s real email address and opting into your list with someone’s address who doesn’t want to hear from you. They’re signing them up anyway and you will get lots of spam complaints.
The good news is that there’s a really good tool called Spam Kill at spamkill.ideasquarelab.com.
This tool gives you a special code that you can put onto your web form and it will act as a perimeter defense. It will stop spam email submission making it into Infusionsoft and it is very effective. I’ve used it myself with some of my online forms because I was getting hit by spambots. It has stopped them 100% for a very low cost (I think it’s $10 or $20 a month).
We’re on the home straight now.
I’m going to share some of the free tools that I’ve created to actually help you manage your engagement and your deliverability.
As I said, you can’t monitor deliverability directly but if you keep an eye on your email engagements and your other various numbers, you’ll maximize your chances of getting into the inbox.
First of all, I did a very detailed email deliverability and engagement analysis and released that everyone looks at it and runs away in horror because it’s a little bit complicated.
I’ve tried to go to the other extreme and create a really simple email deliverability health check that just gives you one score, somewhere between zero, which is really bad and 100, which is really good.
Ironically, my own email deliverability health score was kind of poor when I first tested it but I’m like a plumber with a leaky tap. I don’t always send many emails out, so that’s something for me to work on.
I would say that if you haven’t done so already, go and register for the email deliverability health check because it’s free. It takes about two or three minutes maximum to connect up to Infusionsoft.
If you’ve got a large email list, it’ll take a little while to process your list the first time but it’ll go through it and look at your engagement. It’ll give you a health score broken down into four different areas and it’ll explain what they are and how you can improve it.
We also look at engagement analysis or audience analysis. I already mentioned the scrubbing integration and there will be lots more features that I’m creating there (some paid-for upgrades that will help you actually manage your list in more detail as well).
If you want free access to that, go to Damianqualter.com/emails, fill in the form, and it will send your username and password login.
Any Problems Let Me Know
Other Infusionsoft email services
For the majority of people, the free tools are more than enough.
If you’ve got a particularly large list and you’re concerned that you might have some kind of issue with your email set up or your email deliverability, I’ve created a very detailed email deliverability audit.
With this, we look at your Infusionsoft setup and consider how your authentication is set up, your reputation, the content and your engagement: in short, every part of the RACE framework.
From there, we come up with three to five pages of very detailed recommendations. The whole report is about 35 pages.
There are lots of data tables for those who are interested but the important thing is that the first few pages will say, “Here’s what you need to do to improve things.”
Included with that, there’s a 30-minute debrief where you can ask whatever questions you want and we’ll do a follow up after 30 days.
Email Deliverability Help
We’ve had some really good results. Some people who’ve taken the audit have doubled their open rate. Obviously, that’s partly because they removed a lot of unengaged contacts but the actual net number of people opening emails has still gone up.
This is a really great solution if you just want to be shown exactly what to do. If, on the other hand, you just want someone to take all the pain away and fix everything right now, then Damian Qualter is amazing at this stuff. We can actually work together and combine the audit and the fast-track implementation, where Damian will actually implement all of the recommendations for you.
We’re actually offering a 20% discount on these audits and implementations:
• $399, if you want just the audit; or
• $1999 for the VIP audit and the fast track implementation
It won’t be for everybody. If you ask for it and I don’t think it’s the right thing, I’ll be very honest and tell you that you don’t need it. We’re happy to have a chat about it. Either contact Damian or me.
What Do You Consider A Large Email List?
We’ve been having a bit of a debate about this on Facebook. Even if you’ve got a small list (in the hundreds), you still need to pay attention to these principles.
From my perspective, anything above about 10,000 up to hundreds of thousands is large as it will come within the radar of the likes of Gmail. Anything up to about 10,000 is a reasonable-sized list and above 10,000 is enough to count as large. The health check is valid for anybody who wants to see the real benefits of managing your emails.
If I use Infusionsoft for the CRM but email is with a third-party provider, will your service work?
It depends on what you’re using. You probably won’t get a full representation. I’ll quickly mention that if you’re doing something like that, make sure that you’re getting all of your bounces and unsubscribes updated so that there’s no risk of mailing the same someone who’s already bounced or unsubscribed.
Try the free health check with Infusionsoft and see what you get. Then I’d be more than happy to have a chat to see whether there are ways we can make it look at the mail that is sent from elsewhere.
Do Emojis In Email Subject Lines Work?
We have seen that using emojis in your Infusionsoft subject lines can help improve open rates