Customer EngagementDelivering EmailsMarketing

How to deliver emails to INBOX instead of SPAM/ Junk folder? [Gmail]

By May 14, 2018 One Comment

Okay, now that’s something that can’t be ignored. Can it ? i doubt that, since if your Emails don’t reach the inbox then who is ever going to view it.

Do people check their spam mails ??

Umm, i really don’t think so.

So this is a problem faced by a lot of startups mostly since they do not have any sender score built up for their domain. The struggle with the delivery across different mailbox providers is a set off.

Few senders also struggle with the delivery problem as well as the engagement with the customers through one mailbox providers. There are spammers who get hold of the list and take over the messages from the new IPs/Domains and then vanish.

Let’s talk about how to optimize the deliverability of the emails. To make sure your email reaches the inbox rather than the spam.

Pointers:

  1. It’s important to make sure you are sending the email to the right person, i.e the people who have subscribed for it.
  2. All the invalid email addresses are removed.
  3. The content should be relevant and should have meaningful information in the Subject, From, and Reply to headers.
  4. Take care of all the unsubscribed requests, spam complaints and users who are not active with your email, i.e no click within 30 days.
  5. Suppression list should be maintained and incase of any form of migration from a specific company it should be taken along.
  6. DKIM should be set up and verified for your Domains.
  7. Set up a Custom Bounce Domain.
  8. Set up a Custom Tracking Domain.

It is very important to build a sender score with the Email provider. Without this it is really difficult to optimize your email deliverability.

In this case let’s avoid these bad practices:

    • Sending the message without testing it.
    • Use a misleading subject line.
    • Hide the sender and unsubscribe link.
    • Obtain the email list from a unreliable source and sharing it with the third party.
    • Ignoring the unsubscribe request.
    • Email appending should be avoided.

It is important to have a consent of the recipient prior to sending messages to an Email address.This consent also involves adding the recipient to any ongoing and repeated communications. This gives a chance of not having emails considered as unwanted or abusive.

The subscription can be at different levels –

1. Single opt-in

This is for extreme situations as it means adding unconfirmed address to the mailing list. There is a possible chance of emails going unchecked, unsubscribing, and eventually the decline in the sender’s reputation.

The recipient should be aware of the fact about receiving the emails notification, when the address is being collected.

The sender should also specify the list recipient wants to be included in. For example, do they want to receive email notification regarding the product they have purchased or a similar ones. This kind of control helps the senders to send more efficient emails reducing the chance of emails going unchecked.

Email address should  be used only got the purposes disclosed to the recipient at the time of signup. The email can have visual example making it more likely for the recipient to view it.

2. Double opt-in

The email subscription under this confirm his or her wish to be added to the mailing list twice. The confirmation consist of two steps –

  • The contact fills out the form
  • The contact gets a confirmation email along with a link to confirm
  • They are now added to your list along with information on their IP address and when they sign up and subscription confirmation.

3. Single opt-in with notification

A confirmation email is sent after the sign up. The email here should included the same “From” address so as it allows the recipient to add it to their address book.

The server sending confirmation emails should be differentiated from the bulk sending IPS.

4. Confirmed opt-in

Recipient of the confirmation messages require to take an action so as to be added in the list. The confirmation email should be free of advertising as to avoid it being considered as abusive emails.

Sometimes, an email gets a better response if during the collection of the address, the consent of the customer regarding the notifications of the emails and being added in the mail list is taken into consideration.

unsubscribe –

It should be easy, clear and should be done instantly as a request is received. The longer the  request is delayed it is considered as email abusive and complain.

Unsubscription link should have an subscription ID and a list to unsubscribe from in case of multiple list.

Senders should use easily readable text description instead of images, to accompany hyperlinks a click online unsubscribe webpage. Senders should be capable enough to process email based unsubscribe request through forms and replying to address in the unbound emails.

Senders should also a policy for unsubscriptions. It will be different for various business but they have to decide if the unsubscribe should be valid for all emails or an individual list. It is better to remove the recipient from the entire list.  The offline unsubscription option should be available.

When a hyperlink is presented with a online subscription that includes multiple subscriptions options, the option to unsubscribe should be available in the entire list. The returning subscribers should be made available with the new selections unchecked by default.

It should be made easy for the subscribers to unsubscribe without any hassle or experience any other form of security. A recipient email address should be included in message body to remind recipient of the email address they have used to subscribe to a particular list. This is required incase the recipients have multiple email address.

Data security

Security is one of the primary consideration to be taken into notice. Cyber criminals have the tendency to obtain email address for wrong reasons. Since software applications stores only email address it should not be seen as thought it can’t be attacked by the cyber criminals. This data can be misused, so it is important to in store this data appropriately.

Data Transparency

It is a form of principle required for building trust in the email industry and also includes IP and Domains of the senders along with any links that might be included in the message body of the email. So this way senders are held all the responsibility for any kind of happening. With transparency senders build trust and ability to deliver the emails to inbox while keeping away from spam.

Receivers can know all the information about senders through the following mechanism –

WHOIS Information:

This helps get the contact information for the IP address or Domain name administrators. It is important for the senders to maintain up to date WHOIS information. It is important for the senders to provide appropriate points of contact to help remedy abuse related issues.

Email Authentication:

This form of authentication further helps to clear out the identity of the sender thereby, avoiding any kind of forged or abusive email address. With a proper authentication and identity clarification, the receiver can make a easy decision based on the mailing history and reputation for an Domain.

There are other ways as well to detect the authentication of the sender’s/ Domain.  

  • SPF (Sender policy Framework) –  It is required to detect email spoofing, and validate the sending IP and HELO domain.
  • DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) – It uses a digital cryptographic signature to validate a specific domain in the headers.
  • DMARC ( Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance) – This gives senders to control as to where is their authenticated and unauthenticated emails with their domain are being delivered. It also helps to set policy for the emails that do not get through the SPF and DKIM.  

IP details

This provides guidelines for the transparency of the sender and to know there responsibility of sending mails server to system making their filtering decisions. These guidelines also help during any complain or issue.

The guidelines are:

DNS Forward –

It is required to find a domain name using an IP address. A name must be given identify the responsible party’s domain. The name should indicate that the machine is a server.

In case of shared IP, there can be more than one name pointing at the same IP address.

Whereas in case of dedicated IP situation all the mails belonging to an advertise/ESP required for sending emails should use the same name or a small number of names at the domain registry level and different subdomains can be used.

Example: Do not use espname01.com, Instead use server1.espname.com, etc.

Reserve DNS –

It is used to find a domain name using an IP address. This is also called as PTR or IN-ADDR configured. One IP address should be used in case of one reserve DNS and the name should match the primary name.

HELO names –

It is identical to the full hostname of the mail server. It is required in SPF authentication. The HELO should be matching the DNS name.

It can be sometimes be useful in diagnosing the email problems with NATs. So each mailing system or customer in a shared environment behind NATs should have their own HELO name which is the subdomain.

IP environment – (shared and dedicated)

Dedicated environment:

The sender or ESP may want to isolate the mails from other entities, to protect the reputation,  develop quality emails and also track the quality.

The sender can also control the number of emails originating with an IP. Combination of marketing and transactional email or mail of other category can create a irregular traffic volume. The consistency of the volume describes the integral part in determining the IP reputation and deliverability.

The entity may require outbound MTA setting that is different from shared environment. The entity may also required certification, whitelisting or enhanced deliverability service from third party.  

Shared environment:

The mails from more than one entity can be combined to have a consistent average sending volume to establish and maintain IP reputation. By provisioning the number of entities within a shared environment, mistake made by single sender can affect the entire reputation of the IP.

This is comparatively less expensive and makes mailing system feasible for small businesses.

Vetting –

All the ESP must have an vetting system, since it helps to determine between the spammers and a customer. Vetting of clients is a integral part of maintaining a good reputation and decreasing messaging abuse.

Feedback Loops –

This is the largest source of complain data senders receive from automated feedback loops which is needed to be setup by the mailbox providers, but ESPs can also receive complaints directly in the mailbox. ESPs should be able to handle complaints received. Complaints helps to determine whether the email sender is not in any way violating the terms and conditions.

 

Forwarding Service –

The ESP may be set up for small customer with address based on the ESP sending domain for the use in the header of their message. The ESP may be required to forward the replies to the customer, for this ESPs set up a mail forwarding service.

Non deliverable handling –

There may be a possibility that the email sent may not reach the customer even with the correct address. The reason being the email system may reject or return the emails to sending system.

The sender need to make sure that they have sufficient resources for sending and receiving volumes of SMTP traffic.

When a sender receives an email return it may be rejected in the SMTP conversation. This can happen hours or days later as well. There is about 95% of returns that occur. The sender should identify the address which has bounced the email in order to process them correctly.

The reason can consist of numeric “status code” and a “descriptive message”. Most MTA software, ISPs and mailbox providers will provide an honest and accurate “status code” that follows the RFC requirements.    

Understanding and adjusting to the multitude of receivers returned messages is the key required to get your mail accepted and maintain a reputation.  

Permanent failures –

This indicated the message should not be retried to send. The is most common in “users unknown”. Many types of 5xx code indicates the policy violation as per the descriptive text. These types of errors do not allow sender to retry sending this message.  

It is important to take into account your sending reputation in the past and present. Sometimes the emails delivered to inbox get marked as junk and this is because the message sent is of poor quality. So the goal of ISPs is to make sure recipients do not get any spam messages, so therefore they go through every information to avoid this.

The sender should make it a point to take into consideration the preferences and the expectations of the recipient. The sender should obviously follow all the policy and guidelines and if required should follow up with their legal department on the choices made to ensure they are in compile with the law.

In case of new contacts senders care more about the relationship they share with the customers. The more contacts opens your message from you, the more it will create a form of good behaviour.

Generally, a reputable senders have a list of customers base they send emails to. But in case of a new contact it won’t work right away. To figure this out, try to separate your transactional message from marketing messages. But in case your email only contain welcome messages to first time customers, try to min other types of transactional messages like confirmation, password reset etc. This will help even out first time recipients.

When an email is sent it can be marked as junk by the recipient. This is to be taken into consideration as to how many of these emails land into junk, in order to add value to your email campaign. Keeping a track of email can provide great insight into user behaviour. So, be mindful and try to make adjustments in your mail stream.  

Sonam Kedia

Sonam Kedia

I keep exploring new ways of content which influence people to live a better life. Travelling is something I cannot resist.

One Comment

  • James Waltor says:

    we were continuously facing problems in delivering emails to gmail, but we could not realize that newly registered domains need to build some reputation before sending bulk emails.
    thanks for a nice post.

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