Overcoming Email Deliverability Obstacles

In a past life, I worked on an email campaign geared towards a very broad audience. Today, I would describe it as a batch and blast approach (shudder) but at the time, it was the directive our team of writers and designers was given by the powers above. The message was simple. In fact, it was so simple that my supervisor (who had no experience in email marketing) suggested we don’t use any text at all. “Just make the message part of an image. Don’t use too many words. Make it eye catching.”

Sure, this is a great philosophy — if you’re designing billboards — but it’s not exactly a recommended approach to email marketing. While it may look good or appear to make the call to action “simple,” the overuse of images in email can actually hinder deliverability of your message. And let’s be honest, what good is your simple, pretty-to-look-at email if it’s not reaching the inbox?

Here’s a brief list of a few email deliverability obstacles, including the one above, with some solutions that may help you improve email deliverability and strengthen your organization’s email marketing strategy.

  1. Email Content. Many ISP’s filter based on the content that appears within the message text. This includes URLs, images, inappropriate words and phrases, and attachments. Your best bet is to keep it simple. Only use trusted sources when linking content to web pages, stick to the 70:30 rule (70% copy and 30% images), avoid spam triggers in your copy, and avoid sending attachments entirely (use a URL, instead).
  2. Subscribers & Segment Maintenance. First and foremost, when you ask contacts to opt-in to receive your email communications, ask them to do so with their primary email address. You want to be sure your messages are heading to the inbox they check the most frequently. In addition, always remove undeliverable addresses that bounce when sending email to them. ISP’s track what percentage of your messages bounce and will block them if you attempt to continually deliver messages to closed subscriber mailboxes.
  3. HTML & Plain Text. A 2004 study by AWeber .com shows that plain text messages are undeliverable 1.15% of the time and HTML only messages were undeliverable 2.3%. If sending HTML, include a plain text alternative message, also called text/HTML multi-part mime format.
  4. Gmail. I don’t think I have to tell you this, but Gmail is one of the most difficult ISPs to work with — but that doesn’t mean you should avoid your Gmail addresses! The key to reaching Gmail users is understanding their deliverability is largely determined on customer engagement. Deliverability issues occur with consumers who are less engaged. To get the most out of your Gmail marketing efforts, narrow your focus to only your most engaged Gmail users and exclude the rest.

Email deliverability is about ensuring requested opt-in email is delivered to the intended recipients. While no single tip will enable you to get 100% of your email delivered, each one utilized as a group can go a long way to reaching that goal. What other tips can you share in regards to overcoming email deliverability obstacles?