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Sales - 11 min READ

Email Deliverability: 15 Tips to Get into the Inbox

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Author photo: Siena Witte

Siena Witte

You’ve finally crafted that perfect email.

It may have taken you hours, but you know that as soon as the recipient reads the subject line, they’re going to open it. And once they open your message, they’ll be sure to follow your CTA.

There’s just one problem: what if they never receive your email?

With spam mail accounting for more than half of all emails sent worldwide, it’s no wonder that it’s harder than ever to get your emails into the inbox (and not the spam folder).

If you’re having a hard time getting responses, it may be that your recipients just aren’t seeing your emails.

In this post, we'll look at:

What is email deliverability?

Email deliverability is the ability to get your email into the inbox of the person you’re sending it to.

If your email isn’t delivered to the inbox, one of three things may be happening:

  1. It’s in the spam folder. This usually happens because your IP has been blacklisted.
  2. There was a hard bounce. The email address you were trying to send to either doesn’t exist, or is no longer in use.
  3. There was a soft bounce. There was some sort of temporary technical problem. For example, maybe the server was down at the time you tried to send the email. The email may still get delivered if the problem is resolved soon.

Worldwide, the average global inbox placement for email marketers is currently at 85%. About 6% of emails end up in the spam folder, while about 10% go missing:

How do your email campaigns or sales emails compare to this benchmark? If you want to reach (or even exceed) these inbox placement rates and get more emails into the inbox of your contacts and prospects, keep reading.

Let's look at how to boost your email deliverability.

Use these 15 tips to improve email deliverability and always land in the inbox.

1. Be aware of your Sender Score.

Before you try to lose weight, you need to know how much you currently weigh. Likewise, before you try to improve your email deliverability, you need to understand how your emails are currently doing.

To do that, test your email health by checking your Sender Score.

Your Sender Score is a number from 1-100 that rates your reputation as an email sender. This tells mailbox providers how trustworthy you are, and whether your emails should be delivered to the inbox of the recipient.

Your Sender Score is directly related to your email deliverability. For those whose Sender Score is between 91 and 100, their email delivery rate averages 91%:

Return Path issues your Sender Score to either your IP or Domain for free.

Once you have your Sender Score, you’ll have a better idea of how much you need to improve, and how urgently you need to make changes.

Image for post Send better emails.
Pro-tip 👇

Send better emails.

Learn how to send emails that get responses and close deals with this series of email tips delivered to your inbox.

2. Consolidate and maintain your customer information data.

If you have different platforms where customer information is stored, consolidate them to ensure you have one clean list.

A great way of doing this is to integrate your CRM and your email client. This way, any changes you make to one platform will automatically be reflected in the other, ensuring that you're looking at the same list of people in both platforms and that you don't miss anyone when sending out emails.

If you're using Copper as your CRM, the Mailchimp integration does just that:

When you add, remove, or update a contact’s email, changes in Copper can be synced to automatically update in Mailchimp, and vice versa.

3. Check your IP against blacklists.

If your IP is blacklisted, that means you (or someone at your company) has been using spammy email tactics and now you’re paying the price.

Blacklisted IPs will almost never be able to deliver emails to an inbox. That’s why, to improve your email deliverability, you need to know if you’re on a blacklist.

There are plenty of free tools online that allow you to check your IP against known blacklists, such as MXToolbox.

MXToolbox shows you where you're blacklisted.

If you find that your IP is on a blacklist, it’s time to take immediate action. Here are some common examples of why you’d be blacklisted:

  • You’ve sent too many emails in a short span of time. Usually, legitimate people will grow their email list over time and increase email volumes gradually.
  • You’ve included badly-written content inside your emails. To avoid ending up on the blacklist, it’s best to proofread and correct grammatical errors before you click Send.
  • You’ve reached out to people who didn’t subscribe to your email list. Buying email lists is a very easy way to get yourself blacklisted. The cure is to only use email lists that you grew organically.

Once you’ve corrected any issues, blacklist operators will renew their listings and remove you from the list. This may take up to a few weeks, so be patient.

4. Use a double opt-in to prioritize list quality over quantity.

It often seems like the name of the game is to “spray and pray”—sending your emails to as many addresses as possible and hoping for engagement.

This mindset leads a lot of companies to use tools like email finders to find the right email address for the people they want to contact.

But while this can be a good tactic, not all of these email addresses are always valid. And if you’re constantly sending to email addresses that are invalid or don’t exist, you could get blacklisted.

Not to mention that in the European Union, it’s illegal to add someone to your email list if they didn’t voluntarily sign up for it in the first place. These laws, called the GDPR, apply to anyone who sends email to an EU resident—even if your company is US-based.

To ensure quality over quantity, don’t create an email list of people who aren’t interested in your company’s offerings.

One way to really make sure of this is to use a double opt-in: once a user signs up for your list on your website or elsewhere, send them an additional email asking them to confirm their subscription. (If you’ve signed up to any email newsletters from your favorite store or brand, you’ve probably encountered this.)

Pro-tip: Double opt-ins help you make sure that your users are interested and engaged, saving you time and effort while reducing your risk of being blacklisted or fined by the EU.

5. Gradually increase the amount of emails you send.

When you want to get close to a deer, it’s best to do it slowly. Running at a deer just to get there faster will spook it, and you’ll expend a lot of energy for nothing.

The same is true with your emails. If you want ISP (internet service provider) filters to trust your IP or domain, you’ll need to develop that trust over time.

Going from just a few emails a week to enormous bulk emails in a short amount of time is like running at the deer: you’ll spook the ISPs and all the energy you put into creating those emails will be wasted.

Instead, gradually increase the number of emails that you’re sending. This is called warming up your IP address, letting the ISPs know who you are and that you’re just an innocent email sender with nothing to hide.

If you have many emails to send, try a warm-up schedule that looks something like this:

6. Create a regular sending schedule.

Another way to build trust in ISPs is to have a consistent schedule of email sending. This is especially true for marketers, who are sending the same email to a lot of people.

If your sending schedule isn’t consistent, you’ll have sending spikes that are like big neon warning signs to ISPs.

For example, if you send a monthly email newsletter, don’t just broadcast to your entire list all at once and be done with it. Spread out those emails over a few days or weeks so that your sending pattern looks more consistent.

7. Send a re-opt-in sequence.

If you’ve been developing an email list since the beginning of time, you’ll need to purge and renew your list. Over time, some emails stop being used and become abandoned. If you keep sending to these email addresses, you could get blacklisted.

This is because ISPs and blacklist generators use abandoned emails as spam traps to catch email senders who are broadcasting spam messages to hundreds of thousands of emails. If you keep sending to a spam trap, they’ll include you in a blacklist where you don’t belong.

To avoid this, send a re-opt-in sequence to your whole email list. Let them know that you’re cleaning up your list, and that if they don’t click through to re-opt-in to your list, you’ll stop sending them emails.

Here’s how Chipotle does it:

Taking this step will allow you to remove invalid emails and unengaged subscribers from your list, leaving you with just the core group of people who are truly valuable to your company.

CNET used this strategy to cleanse their list and regain the interest of their subscribers, and their three-email series re-engaged a total of 16.9% of their inactive subscribers.

Your CRM can be a huge help in identifying which of your contacts have gone cold. For example, Copper’s Activity Log shows a detailed history of every contact, which you can filter based on emails.

If you have the Gmail integration, these are automatically added to the account without you having to manually type them in:

Checking recent activity can be a clue as to who needs a re-opt-in, and let you know how your current list is performing. 

8. Be careful with large attachments.

“I’m sending you the pitch deck now, be sure to check your spam folder.”

This doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in prospects. In sales, you send a lot of big attachments. However, these large file sizes are another red flag that could land you in the spam folder.

If you need to send a big attachment, use a tool like DocSend or create presentations and documents in G Suite. This way, you can avoid sending large files and just include a link instead.

9. Take care of authentication.

It’s important to make sure that the technical side of things is taken care of. Why?

Because having the right protocols in place will give your emails a higher chance of landing in inboxes instead of spam folders:

  • Sender Policy Framework (SPF): A protocol for email authentication that allows you as the owner of the domain to identify the mail servers you use to send email.
  • Domain-Based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC): A policy published by you as the email sender that tells the receiving email server your email authentication practices and how they should be enforced.
  • DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM): A protocol for email verification through cryptographic authentication.

These technical authentication methods can be a bit complicated, so make sure you’ve got someone who's tech-savvy to put these in place. Once these are set up, your emails will appear more trustworthy to email servers, making it easier to get through to your intended recipient.

After, you can track the metrics of these authentication records with Google Postmaster tools.

10. Make sure your emails are going to the right person.

Sometimes, it can feel like you’re chasing a moving target during the sales process. Who at the organization is the “right” decision maker? How can you ensure that your message is getting to them?

If you’re sending emails to the wrong people, you're way more likely to get marked as spam, which will work against your reputation—and in turn your deliverability—in the long run.

Email tracking is a helpful option to ensure that you’re getting to the right inbox.

For example, say that you’ve sent a message to one person, but they forwarded it to higher decision-makers. Copper’s email tracking functionality allows you to see who else opened the email:

This allows you to loop in other members for your follow-ups, which minimizes back-and-forths and improves your overall deliverability.

11. Add your brand name to the sender field.

When people receive emails from people they don’t know, they may automatically mark the email as spam.

Whether you’re a marketer or a salesperson, adding your company name to the sender name can help you stay in the inbox.

It would look something like this:

Why does this work?

For email marketing, it’s often easier to engage with a person than with a brand. So, many brands choose to have a person as a sort of representative of the company. It’s that person who shows up as the sender in all email communication.

However, if the sender name in the example above just said ‘Jess,’ how would I know the email is from Contently?

Or, imagine you’re getting in contact with a referral: they may know your brand, but they won’t recognize your personal name.

The goal is for people not to mark your emails as spam. So, help them recognize you by adding your brand’s name to the sender line.

12. Make it easy to opt out.

Did you know that 43% of recipients move their emails to the spam folder just because they don’t find a simple way to opt out?

If people are telling their email service provider that your messages are spam instead of unsubscribing from them, you can easily get blacklisted and see your deliverability rates sink.

So, offer a way for recipients to opt out from your email list.

The best option is to put an unsubscribe link in the footer of your email because that’s where people naturally go to find the option to opt out. Here’s an example of what this looks like:

You can also include a link to the email preference center that lets subscribers control what emails they receive and how often. That way, you can tailor your email strategy to meet their needs:

It could be that some recipients just want to receive one email per week or only messages about a specific service.

By making a few adjustments to your email frequency and content, you may be able to convince them to stay on your list.

13. Avoid tactics that could cause prospects to mark you as spam.

When you use spammy sales methods, people will likely mark your emails as spam.

Here are some examples:

Don’t be pushy.

How many emails should you send to a cold lead before you give up? That will depend on you and your business.

However, if you’re sending round after round of sales emails to the same cold leads that haven’t responded for months, it’s probably time to give them a break.

Never let it get to the point where they’re so tired of seeing you in their inbox that they hit the spam button.

Don’t use too many exclamation points.

Click here!!!!!!! Act now!!!!!!!!!!

Let’s face it, this just looks bad. Stay out of the spam folder by avoiding unnecessary exclamation points. In fact, unless you are genuinely jumping up and down in your swivel office chair, you may not need any exclamation points at all.

Avoid using all caps (unless you’re really angry).

Capitalizing words in your emails tends to give them a spammy, yelling tone.

In person, yelling at people won’t convince them to buy something. And unless you've got really unique copy that works well with all caps, it doesn’t really work in emails either.

Don’t use too many images.

Different email clients have different criteria for which elements get flagged as spam. In some email clients, excessive image use is one of those criteria.

On the other hand, beautiful images are a great way to entice and engage your recipients. So instead of avoiding them all together, approach it with a value-based attitude.

Ask yourself: Does this image add real value to my email? Is it a helpful visual aid for my content, or can it be left out?

14. Look out for spam words.

Spam filters look for specific words or phrases that are associated with spammy emails. That means if you’re using too many words that are considered ‘spam,’ your email could get sent to the spam folder.

Here are some words to avoid in your emails:

  • Act now
  • Congratulations
  • No cost
  • No catch
  • 100% free
  • This isn’t spam
  • You are a winner!
  • Take action now
  • Promise
  • Important information regarding
  • Apply now
  • All new
  • Call free
  • Amazing

You probably recognize some of these words and phrases from the emails in your own spam folder—and they could land your emails next to an email from a Nigerian prince.

15. Create emails worth reading and engaging with.

The best way to increase your email deliverability is to send emails that your recipients will engage with.

Start with your subject line. Writing a killer subject line will give you a higher open rate, which is a clear signal to ISPs that your recipients are engaged and eager to read your emails.

Also, make sure the content of your emails is worthy of the recipient’s attention. Check out this fantastic sales email from FullStory:

This email allows people to engage without any commitment: just a 30-second video. Plus, the tone is friendly and the CTA is very low-pressure.

When your emails aren’t engaging, or are downright pushy, people may mark them as spam. Each time your emails are marked as spam, you’re losing trust with ISPs, and may eventually be blacklisted.

Instead, spend time on writing better emails that motivate readers to engage. This will give you a more engaged audience and less people will mark your emails as spam.

Make sure your emails get delivered.

If your emails never make it to people’s inboxes, they aren’t working for you.

Instead of wasting time creating emails that will never be seen, follow the tips above to improve your email deliverability.

Start by understanding the state of your email health by checking your Sender Score and running your IP against blacklists. Build trust in your IP and domain by verifying the emails you’re sending to, gradually increase the number of emails you send, and create a consistent send schedule.

These methods will help you clean up your email sender reputation and give you a huge boost in email deliverability.

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