Client Blog Post: Tips for Improving Email and Gmail Deliverability

Best Practices Series from etailinsights clients
Tips for Improving Gmail Deliverability
James Koons, Chief Privacy Officer, Listrak

Introduction - Darren Pierce, etailinsights
Email is a huge component of B2B Sales and Marketing.  You know this.

What you may not know, is that your clients and prospects are often using Google Apps For Business to run their email infrastructure.  Even if they have an email address such as 'name@companyname.com' it's Gmail behind the scenes as their ISP. 

So What?  Well, Google operates one of the most complex and strict email SPAM filters in existence.  And, it changes on a continual basis, to screen out the expected unsolicited email.  No doubt some legitimate emails (i.e. your emails to clients) are caught in the filter, and this is a problem. 

We solicited help from one of our clients to solve this problem.  Listrak is one of the leading Email Service Providers (ESP) in the U.S, and their Chief Privacy Officer presents some useful tips (below) to improve your email deliverability.  Enjoy!

Client Blog Post - James Koons, Listrak
Email is one of the most effective ways of getting your B2B marketing message in front of current and prospective clients.  Next to online searches, email is the most popular online activity with 92% of American adults saying they have used email and 61% saying they use it daily.  According to a Radicati Group study, the world will see 2.5 billion email users in 2014.

With all this activity, there is a dark side – the email underworld if you will.  It is estimated that 78% of all email sent is spam.  Spammers send billions of messages every day and despite complex spam filtering still seem to manage an occasional “inboxing”.  Because of the high volume of spam, unfortunately most email users are quick to send messages to spam purgatory.

How can you avoid falling into spam oblivion you ask?  How do you get your messages past the filtering and into the inbox?  Well, if your recipients are using Gmail, these tips will help.  But keep in mind that most of these tips will work well for just about any other ISP or mailbox provider.

1.     Ask your recipients to remove the spam label from your messages.  If your email happens to land in your recipient’s spam folder, ask your readers to remove the spam label from the message.  Provide instructions via a “how do I do this?” link – with screenshots (make it easy).  This lets Google know that you’re an approved sender.  This applies to that individual, but will also apply to other Gmail users.  Google values user input (engagement), and trusts their users to tell them what they want to receive as well as what they don’t.  In addition, when messages do hit the Gmail inbox, encourage your users to click on the “Always display images from this address” button.  This also lets Google know you are a welcome sender and also ensures the user sees your creative the way they should.

2.    
Encourage recipients to add your sending “From:” address to their contacts list.  Again, provide instructions for doing this.  This is a simple way to ensure that all of your emails are delivered.  It also lets Google see you as an approved sender.  The more Gmail users that have your sending address in their contacts, the better.  If you happen to change your from address (which can cause issues and we don’t recommend it in most cases), let your recipients know of the change and encourage them to add the new address to keep receiving your communications. 

3.    
Use “Gmail” in your subject line.  We have seen tremendously positive results with this.  If you are having issues at Gmail, try a one-time segmented campaign to all your Gmail recipients using subject lines, such as: “Gmail Customer Notice:  Open if you missed our last great deal!” and “Help Teach Gmail to Like [Insert Company Name Here]!  Give us a Star.”  Seeing Gmail in the subject line drives opens from these users.  Begin the message with instructions on how to add your address to their contacts and/or how to mark the message as important/star it.  Do this by linking to a “How Do I Do This” page to encourage engagement.  Google will see these recipients clicking on links in your email and taking action within Gmail and know your users are engaged.

4.    
Monitor recipient engagement and be proactive.  Recipients who open your emails and click through your links are engaged users.  This lets Google know that they want to receive messages from you.  Recipients who never open your messages (and therefore never click links) could become an issue for you if they one day decide to report your messages as spam.  This can happen even if they were a legitimate sign-up in the beginning.  Most ISPs, including Gmail , use engagement metrics as a factor to determine if your recipients are opening the message and clicking your links, not reading and just deleting it, unsubscribing, or reporting you as spam.  If a subscriber hasn’t opened or clicked in the last 45-60 days, or two or more sends, you should consider a reengagement strategy (see tip #3).  If that does not work, you need to remove these unengaged users from your list.  By monitoring your list and segmenting out unengaged subscribers you will help your inbox placement across the board, not just at Gmail.

5.    
Make it easy to unsubscribe from your list.  I mentioned above to make it easy for users to add you to their contacts, mark messages important (or “star” them) and remove the spam label by providing instructions.  It is just as important to make it easy to unsubscribe from your list.  The easier you make it, the less likely you are to have issues from a disgruntled recipient who can’t figure out how to unsubscribe.  I hear a lot of marketers say they like to bury the unsubscribe link in their messages and it makes me cringe.  This is not a very good idea at all.  If someone does not want your emails and can’t easily unsubscribe, they will mark your message as spam.  This in turn will affect your reputation and inbox placement for recipients who do want to get your messages.  This applies to senders who do not use an automated unsubscribe function and/or take a long time to manually remove unsubscribes from their lists.  Someone who has already unsubscribed isn’t going to be happy if another one of your messages lands in their inbox because you took too long to remove them.

6.    
Monitor domain level reports and third party data.  Be sure to monitor opens, clicks, bounces (by type), unsubscribes, opt-outs and spam complaints for your top sending domains.  This functionality is available within Listrak.  You can utilize this data to size up your Gmail engagement and to determine if certain campaigns are causing more complaints than others.  In addition, seed your lists using a product like 250ok’s Inbox Informant to monitor message placement (inbox, spam, bulk, junk or missing).

While not an all-inclusive list, these tips will certainly help your email deliverability at Gmail – the largest email provider - as well as other ISPs and mailbox providers.  Keep an eye on my blog at www.ideliveremail.com for more tips on deliverability, privacy and compliance.

James Koons
Chief Privacy Officer
Listrak