A recent blog from Google which you can read here promised a “safer less spammy inbox” which I’m sure we can all get on board with. This will have implications if you use email marketing or any systems that have automated emails such as CRMs.
I have previously written a blog on deliverability and that there are no guarantees of delivery of any particular emails, but this blog sets out from Google, the biggest email provider, the expectation of anyone sending any bulk emails. There have also been noises from Yahoo that they will implement similar rules.
The good news, is it’s really what I’d suggest is best practice anyway. The three main headlines are:
- Authenticate emails:
“we’re requiring those who send significant volumes to strongly authenticate their emails following well-established best practices. Ultimately, this will close loopholes exploited by attackers that threaten everyone who uses email”.
This is already best practice and protects your email integrity as well as helping avoid spam and phishing attacks.
This best practice means the following should be set.
- DKIM essentially digitally signs an email so that it proves you are the legitimate sender. There should be instructions on how to set it up for each platform that sends emails on your behalf.
- SPF or sender policy framework is a list of the platforms that have your permission to send on your behalf. This should be set up on your domain’s host.
- DMARC specifies what the mailbox should do with an email that hasn’t passed the other forms of identification. This must be set up correctly since any mistakes will guarantee your emails are sent to the spam folder. Again, set up on your domain host.
2. Easy Unsubscribe
“You shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to stop receiving unwanted messages from a particular email sender. It should take one click.”
Any email sent from your email marketing software or CRM should have a simple link that allows a recipient to unsubscribe easily. One of the key questions to ask about anyone on your list is, “Do they want to hear from you?” I’d go as far as to encourage unsubscription because it means your email list will then comprise contacts who are interested and therefore engaged with the content you’re producing. These ultimately are the ones that are most likely to buy.
3. Ensure you’re sending wanted emails:
“We’ll enforce a clear spam rate threshold that senders must stay under to ensure Gmail recipients aren’t bombarded with unwanted messages”.
The first two are procedural and can be implemented easily, this is to do with the response contacts have to your mail. If you have a percentage of emails being “marked as spam” then your access to the inbox is going to be curtailed. The percentage of spam reports that will get you into trouble is low so it’s important to reduce the chance of this happening. The best approach is to have a smaller list of contacts that want to hear from you so consider the following.
- Do you have the permission of everyone on your list to email them? At the very least, are they interested in your emails? This is where your domain reputation can be destroyed!
- Engagement is King. At one time it was open rates, but a more effective measurement is to look at how long it has been since they last engaged. Clicked on a link or replied to an email. More than three months and there is an increased risk of a spam report. Think of the following:
- Is there a link to click on the emails you send? Useful info? Blog link?
- Do you send transactional as well as marketing emails, click on their invoice or account is still an interaction
- Segment your list – send the right information to the right audience.
- Re-engagement campaigns – if they have not engaged check that they are still interested. What else do they need?
- Use a preference centre. Do all your contacts want all the emails?
- Set expectation – will you send weekly /monthly?
- Be regular, this is not only good from a marketing standpoint. Getting an email out of the blue from a company they signed up with years ago would likely trigger a complaint.
Open rates are often seen as a good sign of engagement, but they are increasingly becoming unreliable so it’s a good idea to design your emails with an engagement or call to action. Is there something they should click on? Doesn’t have to be a sales form or a download, it could be a link to your blog or an article, an invite to connect on LinkedIn, or a poll. The best sort of engagement is a reply, so give your recipient a reason to reply to your mail. Make sure you have a process in place to follow up when someone replies.
Take a long hard look at anyone who hasn’t engaged in the last 30 days, and even harder on those with no action in the last 90 days!
The frequency of sending makes a huge difference to engagement. Ideally, weekly, or at least every other week otherwise your contacts don’t remember you and don’t recall ever signing up. If your contacts receive an email after a long period of silence, they are less likely to open it and more likely to mark it as spam, or even register a spam complaint; another way to sully your domain reputation! If we have an engagement rate of 35% it is unlikely to be the same 35% for each mail. So, the more often we send the more of the list will have engaged in the last 30 days and the better our domain reputation. Consider segmenting your list so that the engaged contacts get frequent emails while those that are less engaged get less frequent emails, just enough to keep in touch.
Any more than 3 links in an email will massively increase the chance of ending up in the Promotions tab if not the spam folder. If you are sending from an email marketing app, your unsubscribe link will count as one. If you have a call to action, and you should be on most emails, that’s a second. So, stop there! Adding links to websites and multiple social media accounts will cause you problems. Another reason for limiting links is that you should be designing your mail to elicit a particular response. It may be to click on a buy link, a link to an article, a link to one social media account, or a book an appointment link. Any further links distract and confuse your contact. Confused people don’t act.
While we are discussing links, link shorteners have been shown to reduce deliverability.
Google has made it explicit in what it now expects from businesses so a little forward planning and getting the right processes in place should mean you won’t be impacted excessively by these changes act now to protect your reputation and your revenue.