Inbox placement can make or break an email campaign. And with the ever-changing regulations for reputation and deliverability, it can be difficult to stay up-to-date. What used to work isn't guaranteed to work now; but, what used to land you in the junk mail folder might now be okay. It's confusing – and it's meant to be confusing as ISPs need to stay ahead of the spammers. About 95% of all email received by AOL, Gmail, Outlook and Comcast is spam. Fortunately, ISPs are able to block all but 10% of those messages.
The remaining 5% are sent from permission-based marketers, who have the responsibility to prove to ISPs that their messages are wanted and valid. That means some extra work and vigilance for legitimate senders.
The good news – ISPs are no longer taking an "all or nothing" approach to inbox placement. Specific user behavior plays a large role in determining if an email lands in a recipient's inbox or junk mail folder. Deliverability, like the messages themselves, has become personalized.
ISPs focus on a personalized inbox experience for each user, meaning subscribers have more control over their inboxes than ever before. Specific user actions, or signals, are combined with the ISP machine-learned algorithms to determine the relevancy of the message and the sender's reputation.
Think the subject line "FREE FREE FREE!!!!!!!!!!" will get you blocked? It won't – not anymore. Subject lines alone are no longer a reputation factor – the length, message, capitalization, punctuation, or even the use of special characters – won't impact inbox placement. However, recipients decide to open or delete an email based on the subject line, and that action will impact your reputation. If it's deleted without being opened, the ISP could filter future emails with similar subject lines sent to that person. It's also worth noting that subject lines still do matter to the FTC, so be sure your subject line isn't misleading so you remain CAN-SPAM compliant.
Similarly, engagement factors, such as click-throughs, don't count towards your reputation either. ISPs consider tracking what a user does inside of their email as a privacy violation – they only look at how users respond to messages in the inbox. Opens matter, and that engagement factor is enough to prove the recipient isn't inactive or unresponsive.
Good list hygiene practices shouldn't be left to validation services after things go wrong. They should be part of your program from day one and followed throughout the entire lifespan. A solid infrastructure is essential, and ISPs look at things – such as email authentication (DKIM, DMARC, etc.), DNS & rDNS, a properly functioning reply addresses, feedback loops and working unsubscribe mechanisms – as a given. It's something every permission-based sender should have in place.
Google's Gmail is a powerhouse. It's leading the way in inbox improvements and email marketers must adapt to these trends in order to reach their Gmail audience. Sri Somanchi of Gmail's Anti-Spam team, recently gave our Chief Privacy Officer, James Koons, some advice to share with Listrak's clients. "Don't make attempts to get your promotional emails into the Primary Tab. The Promotions Tab was designed for promotional content for our users. Please do not try to game the system as this is generally viewed as subversive behavior. If you are being offered some sort of back way into the Primary Tab, don't listen to those consultants."
He explained that Google is a large sender as well and they also see "the other side of things". Further advice from Somanchi are what he calls the "5 R's":
For more information on email Privacy and Deliverability, contact us.