Is there a way to improve your email deliverability just by optimizing the email features available to you or are you concerned, no matter what you do,  that the emails you send today are going into the SPAM filters tomorrow?

Before you call in the experts: your ESP, considered the following short list that mailers use to keep their email messages from being trashed.

1. WhitelistingThis can be done at the IP level, the domain or the email address you are sending from.  When you’re whitelisted, you are on the approved sender list.

2. As a sender, you might consider breaking up a very large list into smaller blocks.  If you receive SPAM complaints (Even if you have a squeaky-clean list it will happen) when you send in smaller blocks, these complaints will not come in all at once, which may put you on a blacklist.

3. Clean your lists.  When you continue to send to a bad email address, or you have a habit of not removing bounced messages when you should, eventually, your IP will be awarded a higher SPAM score.  With a high SPAM rating, your deliverability and sender’s reputation will naturally decrease.

4. Always provide a quick easy way to unsubscribe from your list.  I know, for myself, I dislike clicking an unsubscribe link only to be brought to a questionnaire. You do not want your member to become frustrated with unsubscribe polices and report you as a SPAMMER, so make it easy for them to leave.

5. Test your message before you release your campaign to your entire list.  Send the completed message not only to your test audience, send it to your Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc., so you can test both opens and delivery.

6. Did you know that SPAM and Junk filters check your message content for messy HTML code to earmark that type of message as SPAM?  Create content with the built-in HTML editor provided by your ESP or another email specific program.  A few programs to avoid are Microsoft WORD and Publisher.  These programs are notorious for adding extra HTML characters and styling into your work. If you insist on using them anyway, review the completed content in an editor so you can eliminate the extra HTML characters and styling that is added by these programs.   AND if you cut and paste your content to make a template, you are also copying the formatting, creating more extra HTML characters and styling problems.  You may find yourself with sloppy code with an increased message size, incorrect rendering in email clients with added links to unknown or unwanted places.

7. There’s also the school of thought not to use one big embedded image as your content, as SPAM filters seem to look for this too.  Typical SPAMMERS use large one-page Images, to pass along messages that are unseen to the filters, like Viagra advertising.

When you need the experts:

As you know sometimes it’s not only a matter of trust but a matter of volume.

As mentioned before, breaking up your list to send in smaller chunks may not avoid the filters but complaints will not hit you all at once.  Is that a SPAMMER trick, maybe?  Do you want to be associated with SPAM, probably not?   And there’s no guarantee that your IP wouldn’t be blacklisted once an ISP starts to receive complaints about a specific mailing.

Having a list of 5 million emails to send out, breaking them up in chunks of 1 million will not lessen the number of SPAM complaints you may receive.  SPAM and Junk filters count the number of emails an IP address sends at a time.  If you have a substantial number of members and you have found your message landing in the SPAM filter more times than not, ask your ESP is to send your messages out slowly over a dedicated IP.

A dedicated IP address helps keep your sending reputation intact.  Even so, it’s interesting to note big volume senders can be slowed down by the receiving ISPs (Yahoo or Gmail for example). They do this by executing rate limits on your messages.

Rate limits, also know as throttling,  are put in place by the ISP mail server administrator.  Basically, the ISP limits the number of connections per hour they accept to prevent mail servers from being overtaxed.   Limits are used to deter spam.  Generally, a list sends messages over one dedicated IP or shared IP that connects to the ISP.   Dundee uses the concept of mail streams, which bind one or more IP addresses together to form a common sending unit, distributing messages out in parallel.  This method increases the speed of delivery as mail streams open more connections during email delivery but increases the tolerance of sending blocks.  Simply put, if one IP address is blocked by rate limits, ListManager can continue to send messages out using the other IP address associated with the mailstream in order to maximize delivery.

SPF can also assist with email delivery. This is another form or email authentication, explained more fully in this article: “Are You Really an Email Marketer OR Are You Forging This Email Address?”

Even if you do all these things perfectly, your emails may still end up in the junk folder.  Email spam filter criteria change almost daily and can be impacted by things that you have no control over. However, if you, as a habit, send good email that your clients want, you’ll get into the inbox more often than not, I’m only suggesting following the above guidelines because, once an email provider thinks that your email is spam, it is very hard to get back into the inbox!

Even if you do all the above suggestions perfectly, your emails may still end up in the junk folder.  Email spam filter standards change all the time and can be affected by things you have no control over.  You can get to that in-box more often than not regardless.  Always send content your members want, follow best practices and keep up that good sending reputation.  Because, once your email is marked as a SPAM by a recipient, intentional or not, its difficult to get back in the inbox.

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