If you’ve sent any email campaigns in the past few months, you’ve already noticed that your traditional metrics no longer seem to matter. Opens and clicks are down, while unsubscribes seem to rise. It’s time to admit it: Open rates and clicks are becoming old hat. Engagement is a powerful metric but it means nothing if you can’t reach your audience. Deliverability is the metric you need to optimize.
Open and click rates are very different for every industry, and even vary by company and brand. The rise in social media even has an impact on open rates. For all the same reasons your company is not exactly like its competitors, your open rates won’t be either. What you really need to focus on are the trends in your own reports, and how they may reflect a more disturbing shift in your deliverability.
How do you know your deliverability is down? Without an email deliverability tool like ReturnPath or an ESP tool that includes deliverability metrics, it is difficult to tell. A large one-time drop in open rates, all other things being equal, can be a clue.
Also, outside forces keep changing the game, such as when ISPs like Hotmail change their delivery requirements. If you aren’t up to date with current wisdom and best practices, you can be shut out of most inboxes.
There are many ways to improve email deliverability:
- Use a closed-loop opt-in process. When people sign up for anything you offer, send an email that asks them to click a link or check a box, confirming a second time.
- Be consistent. Your message should always focus on the value of your business or personality. If readers trust you about quality cars, tasty beverages, financial advice, or some other niche, suddenly spouting off about Lady Gaga is going to turn them away. Beyond messaging, a consistent frequency of message will help them remember, “Oh yes, it’s Friday, so it’s from these folks I like.”
- Use continuous permission. Every so often, send an email that is not a transaction follow-up or regular communication, that asks the reader to re-confirm their subscription.
- Become a trusted sender. You can use DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) to let ISPs know your email is really coming from your domain. As anti-spoofing measures tighten, this will become more important than you might think.
- Know what ISPs are doing. Right now, ISPs are using engagement level as an important metric. This means readers who never open your emails will stop receiving them. Who knows what they will do next week? So keep up with the changes and react immediately.
- Reduce emails to unengaged readers. Partly because of the engagement level metric, you should throttle-down the frequency of emails to people who haven’t opened an email in a long time. They should want your messages, otherwise what are you sending it for?
There is so much more to understand about deliverability, which is why ESPs focused on deliverability and various deliverability tools thrive. Your job is to keep your audience engaged, but you can’t engage until you deliver.