Ensuring your emails are delivered to the inbox and not the spam folder is a team effort. WordFly’s responsibility is to provide you with a high quality infrastructure that encourages ISPs to deliver your email. Your responsibility is to closely follow email marketing best practices to keep your sender reputation score high. Here’s a closer look at what we both need to do to achieve the highest deliverability possible for you.
Topics covered in this article:
1. IP address with rDNS configured.
All WordFly customers are assigned an IP address for sending emails and these IPs are configured with rDNS records. ISPs like to see email from your domain coming from a common IP address. Spammers typically use an IP address until it gets blocked and then use another one to send their emails.
2. SPF record on sending domain.
WordFly publishes an SPF record (Sender Policy Framework) for our sending domain. SPF authenticates the email's return path / bounce address. This is also known as the Mail From: in the email message header and isn’t displayed to subscribers. SPF records authorize WordFly as a valid sender for your domain. Major ISPs like Microsoft and Verizon use SPF to verify that the sender is authorized to send email on your behalf before they will deliver your email.
The WordFly team will enlist your domain or IP in all available Whitelists. Whitelisting is a service offered by some ISPs that allows email marketers to bypass spam filters. Only a few ISPs offer whitelisting at this time. Those ISPs are AOL, Yahoo, and Verizon. Other ISPs like Microsoft recommend becoming Return Path Certified as a way of “whitelisting” your sending domain(s) and sending IP. While it’s relatively easy for WordFly to add your domain and IP to an ISP whitelist, you do have to follow email marketing best practices to stay in there.
4. Feedback loops.
Feedback loops allow ISPs to send abuse complaints back to WordFly (learn about abuse complaints in this post). The WordFly team will also enlist your IP in all available ISP feedback loops. Yahoo is the only feedback loop that requires your assistance to activate because it is domain based (they only activate if you have a postmaster@yourdomain address), we will ask you to set this up during your onboarding phase. Not all ISPs offer feedback loops; Verizon, AT&T, Bellsouth, Charter, and Integra do not offer them at this time. Gmail has a beta feedback loop program available which WordFly is participating in but gmail abuse complaints still do not show up in email campaign reporting.
5. ISP message handling and threshold throttling.
WordFly mail servers are configured to send to each ISP based on their posted sending limits. In addition, WordFly throttles delivery appropriately when ISPs send back messages that mail has been suspended. WordFly uses finely tuned bounce handling to prevent excessive mailings to bad addresses (hard bounces) or to addresses with mailbox full and other automated responses (soft bounces). Learn more about throttling by reviewing this post.
1. Create a warm-up plan.
Anytime you're sending from a new email service provider you need to have a plan to properly warm up your sending to all ISPs.
2. Publish a DKIM record for your sending domain.
All WordFly customers publish a DKIM record for their sending domains during our onboarding process. This record acts as a signature on your emails and tells ISPs you are a valid email marketer, not a spammer.
3. Get Permission (signup process).
4. Ask subscribers to add your “from” name and address to their address book.
ISPs have filters that look through email address books to determine whether new incoming email should be placed in the inbox. Ask your subscribers during the signup process and in any welcome messages to add your “from” name and address to their address book (or safe senders list). It’s a simple step, but very important for delivery.
5. Remove unsubscribes, hard bounces and abuse complaints as soon as they are received.
List hygiene is extremely important for deliverability and IP/domain reputation. WordFly will ensure that any subscribers who click on the unsubscribe link are removed immediately from future list imports and from the list that was used to mail to them. Make sure your unsubscribe is clear in all emails.
WordFly removes hard bounces after 1 bounce, suppressing these addresses from all future mailings. It is best practice to remove these addresses immediately. Sending to hard bounces again can lead to IP blocks or black listing which require WordFly’s deliverability team to resolve directly with the ISP.
6. Send relevant and appropriate content.
“Batch and Blast” is a thing of the past. Subscribers want email that is personalized for their enjoyment. ISPs want to see that your subscribers are clicking and opening your emails. Ask yourself some questions as you review your email program. Who is receiving your emails? Did they sign up for a specific type of email communication on your website? Think about what content your subscriber is looking to receive and work on meeting that goal. If a subscriber doesn't find anything of interest in the email, they will probably elect to unsubscribe or (worse) mark it as spam. Read more about engagement in this post
In the past some content in your email could land you in the spam folder easily. Phrases like "FREE" or using red text were frequently spam flags. Now word content isn't as much of an issue; instead, content such as links and all image emails can be flagged as suspicious. When it comes to links, you should always use the fully qualified valid URL for the redirect link. Never use shortened links (bt.ly or any other service) in a marketing email. Spammers abuse URL shorteners to mask the malicious location they are trying to send you to; as a result, ISP filters heavily filter or block emails with shortened links. Also, make sure that any website links you place in the body of your email match what you have it redirecting to. For example, if your website is http://www.wordfly.com/ you should match this exactly in the body of your email. If you don't like placing the full link with HTTP protocol in the body of your email switch over to using a friendly text link for the body of the email (ex, Visit the WordFly website). Take away: Be safe and always use the right link!
7. Maintain consistent sending volumes.
OK, we know what you're thinking, "People don't want more email, they just want a weekly or monthly update." The possible issue with this method is that people can forget they opted in to receive your email because they don’t hear from your brand. ISPs also need to see consistent sending volumes to determine your reputation. It is in your best interest to review your email marketing and determine what “consistent volume” means for your organization and then try to maintain that on a regular basis. Try sending more frequent updates and drive customers to your website for information.
8. Re-engage or remove inactive subscribers.
Plain and simple, engagement is extremely important now. If ISPs see that subscribers aren’t opening your emails, then they are more likely to send your emails to the spam folder. You can try conducting a re-engagement campaign to see if these subscribers are still interested in your emails. Try offering discounts or just asking “Are you still interested in our emails?” Email marketing is a relationship. If your subscribers are still inactive after trying to re-engage, it is better to remove these addresses from your email list to maintain a good reputation.
9. Watch your Sender Score, https://www.senderscore.org/.
Sender Score is primarily determined by the amount of abuse complaints you are receiving from subscribers. It also monitors any spam traps or blacklists your IP may have landed on. Return Path sponsors this free service. Sender Scores under 75 are problematic and may start to see blocks by Comcast and other ISPs. Keep abuse complaints low. Only send to fully opted-in email addresses. Never buy a list or send to any email addresses that are not willingly opted-in. Set expectations with your subscribers when they sign up around content and mailing frequency. Be recognizable to your subscriber with your From/Reply Name and address. Ask subscribers to add your sending address to their email client safe senders list.
10. Follow creative best practices.
11. Return Path Certification.
We also recommend going through Return Path Certification. Return Path is a trusted partner in the world of email monitoring, deliverability, certification, and anti-phishing solutions. They have nearly 300 ISP partners globally and over 2 billion inboxes comprise their Certification Program. Joining forces with Return Path is definitely an advantage along with all the other steps noted in this post. Any senders on WordFly can apply for Return Path Certification and we highly recommend it! Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in getting started.
Help ISPs and subscribers make the best judgment by being on your best behavior as an email sender. Follow these best practices and it will go a long way in helping your emails reach the inbox.