Originally published in collaboration with Teradata on the Teradata blog.
Email remains one of the most focused, effective ways to get your marketing message exactly where you want it to be: in the hands—well, inboxes—of your current and prospective customers.
Unfortunately, there’s also a dark side to this “clutch” marketing tool. In addition to legitimate email marketers, spammers send billions of messages to consumers every day, leading harried recipients with little to do in response but send everyone to “Report Spam” oblivion.
So how do you avoid “guilt by association?” How do you ensure that your valuable messages make it past junk filters and reporting buttons?
If your recipients are using Gmail—and it’s likely many of them are, since it’s the email client of choice for more than 350 million users worldwide—here are some useful tips to improve Gmail deliverability. Although these strategies are smart for Gmail, they are good to keep in mind for other ISPs as well.
1: Ask your users to mark your messages as “not spam.” If your email happens to trip some junk filters and get put in your recipient’s spam folder, ask your readers to click on the “not spam” button to let Google know that you’re an approved sender—not just for that user, but for other users, too. Google puts a premium on user input, and trusts their devoted Gmailers to tell them what they want to receive . . .and what they don’t!
Likewise, if you do get to their inbox but have your display images filtered, encourage readers to click on the “Always display images from this address” button. This lets Google know that you’re a valid sender, and enables your recipients to see your carefully constructed emails in all of their HTML glory.
2: Ask your readers to add your sending “from” address to their Gmail contact list. This is a simple way to ensure that all of your emails are delivered, as it puts a big seal of approval on everything you send. If at some point you change your sending address, be sure to let your recipients know — they’ll have to add that address, too!
3: Keep a close eye on recipient behavior. Recipients who open your emails and click through your links are engaged users. Their behavior indicates they want to receive messages from you. Recipients who never open your messages (and miss your links entirely, as a result) could become an issue for you if they decide to report you as spam – even though they signed up to hear from you in the first place.
ISPs, and we believe Gmail especially, use “engagement metrics” as a factor to determine if your recipients are interacting with your email (clicking and opening), just deleting it, unsubscribing, or reporting you as spam. If a subscriber hasn’t clicked or opened your email in the last 45-60 days, or 2+ publications, you should consider a reengagement strategy and ultimately remove unengaged users from your list. Monitoring your list and segmenting out unengaged subscribers will help your inbox placement across the board.
4: Make it easy—and as quick as possible—to unsubscribe from your emails. The easier you make it to leave your messages behind, the less trouble you’ll see from frustrated recipients. At first, it might seem like a good idea to bury your unsubscribe link somewhere easy to miss. But, if someone who doesn’t want email from you can’t get rid of you that way, they’ll simply report you as spam, which will subsequently affect your reputation and inbox placement for users who do want to get your email.
This also goes for senders who don’t have an automated unsubscribe function, or who take too long to scrub unsubscribes from their lists. Your recipients aren’t going to be too happy when you pop up in their inbox after they took steps to banish you.
5: Monitor Domain Level Engagement Reports and Third Party Data. Even though Gmail doesn’t offer a feedback loop for complaints, you can assume that Gmail subscribers would behave about the same as the active portion of your other webmail customers (*not ALL those subscribers, but the active ones). You should create a domain level email metrics report and monitor clicks, opens, bounces (by type), unsubscribes, opt-outs and spam complaints for your top sending domains. You can also use this data to make judgments about Gmail engagementand to determine if a specific campaign is causing higher complaints.
In addition, you should seed your lists using a product like Return Path to monitor inbox vs. bulk placement.
By putting these simple tips to work in your email marketing campaigns, you’ll increase your conversion possibilities in a big way by getting into the inbox and staying where you want to be, on the good side of one of the biggest email providers operating today.