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Deliverability Do’s & Don’ts Guide


1. Clarify Desired Customer Engagement Level

Email marketing is good and spam (non-permission based or unsolicited email) is bad.

Before you even contemplate launching an email marketing program, you have to determine the desired level of Customer Engagement acceptable to your organization. In other words, how often will you be emailing prospects, customers or other subscribers, and with what types of communication? It is equally important to determine the degree of input the members of your audience will have in their interactions with your company, and how they will communicate their preferences to you.

Whatever source you consult for getting the latest spam statistics (and there are many entities that report this data), it is commonly accepted that much of the email flowing around the Internet today can be defined as spam. The numbers are staggering and continue to rise as it becomes easier and more cost-efficient to send electronic communications. Imagine for a moment that all the spam you receive started showing up as paper mail on your curb - it would certainly be an astonishing sight. However, the fear of spam should not deter you from utilizing one of the most dynamic and targeted channels available today for communicating with your customers. If you are willing to adopt industry best practices (the Do’s of Deliverability) and avoid the most common pitfalls (the Don’ts), then the percentage of your emails that reach the Inbox will increase and result in a more engaged and profitable customer base. It’s a jungle in today’s email world. The good news is that you have the information and trusted tools available to help you navigate the challenges of the jungle. So how do brands compete with all the unwanted email messages and irrelevant content that contribute to the spam landscape? It’s as simple as following a few Do’s and Don’ts. The results will speak for themselves, and your programs will benefit from the additional attention.


 …provide a clear and concise sign-up process, preferably with a double opt-in approach

 …let your customer decide when and how often they want to hear from you

 …set expectations around the frequency of mailings - this will go a long way to ensure that your client remains engaged with your brand


 …assume instead of asking – Ask your subscribers what level of engagement they want and honor it.

 …make the sign-up, preference-setting or unsubscribe process complex

 …delay the implementation of a regular process for updating subscriber preferences

Lyris, Inc. | 5858 Horton Street, Suite 270 | Emeryville CA 94608 USA | Toll free 888.GO.LYRIS (465.9747) | International calls 510.844.1600 | Fax 510.844.1598 | Customer support 888.LYRIS.CS (597.4727) or 571.730.5259


Deliverability Do’s & Don’ts Guide

Once you have set the initial engagement level, confirm and reaffirm the wishes of your audience regularly. Relevance is the key for your customers, so provide them with the option to change their preferences in every email you send, and allow them to control the engagement and preference cycle any time they like.

2. Establish & Maintain Your Brand (And Sender) Reputation Anything you do online can and will be tracked, and will establish your brand and sender reputation. Your online reputation is a critical factor in any online marketing effort. There are many factors that can contribute to your online reputation including: • IP Reputation – Your reputation is associated with a specific IP address, which indicates whether you are responsible for sending spam or Unwanted Bulk Email (UBE). You can keep your IP reputation squeaky clean by following some of the best practices listed in this guide. • Authentication and Identity – Authentication is the method by which senders are identified. Such identification then allows for an immediate determination about the legitimacy of a sender.You can ensure your company passes this test by following email best practices too. The fewer spam complaints you receive, the more likely you will be considered a legitimate sender. • Link Domain Reputation – This score is assigned to your domain based on a combination of factors including traffic, spam complaints, changes in email volume, age and validity of the domain, and incoming and outgoing links. Again, if you are following email best practices, this is a score that you won’t have to worry about, but it’s good to be aware of.

• Website Reputation – This is the score associated with your Website. Generally speaking, ‘bad’ scores are assigned to those Websites that produce excessive pop-up windows or spam. • Consumer Perception – If your customers perceive your brand or company negatively, it will be reflected in the way they engage with your emails. Unwanted messages can result in spam complaints. And if email from your company is frequently reported as spam, it will impact your deliverability. • Line of Business – Follow the permission standards associated with your line of business, and bear in mind that some industries are inherently more prone to being perceived as spammers. For instance, medical services or financial institutions tend to have more questionable reputations even if their brands are well-known.


 …choose an email service provider (ESP) that provides you with built-in assurance that your reputation will be safeguarded through every means possible, and one that has positive working relationships with the major ISPs.

 ….develop email content that is relevant to your audience, and that clearly states a way for them to update their preferences or unsubscribe.

 …establish and follow distinct email content and delivery protocols within your company. For instance, assign content approvers who know and can enforce email content best practices and only allow email to be deployed by an assigned and qualified employee (or small group of employees). These controls will provide visibility into what is being sent.

Lyris, Inc. | 5858 Horton Street, Suite 270 | Emeryville CA 94608 USA | Toll free 888.GO.LYRIS (465.9747) | International calls 510.844.1600 | Fax 510.844.1598 | Customer support 888.LYRIS.CS (597.4727) or 571.730.5259

Deliverability Do’s & Don’ts Guide


 …closely monitor the delivery rates of all outbound emails, paying close attention to unsubscribes, spam complaints and bounces. If any of these rates are high or on the increase, adjustments need to made before your scores are negatively impacted.


 …choose ignorance. Not knowing or following industry best practices with regard to email content, email design, subscription preferences, and permission standards will work against your reputation, and the deliverability of your email.

It’s easier and quicker than ever for recipients of your email to complain about your company and its products, policies and procedures. The online actions of your company create a trail that results in perceptions of both your brand and your company as a sender. Your reputation can make or break your deliverability and it sticks with you for a long time– so act wisely.

3. Send from a Consistent, Recognizable, and Friendly “From” Address: Ensure you always send your email messages from the same “From” address. Customers are more likely to open messages and enable links from companies they recognize and with whom they have a direct relationship.


 …ask your customers and subscribers to add your address to their Safe Sender list during the sign-up process, and reinforce this request when you send a welcome message

 …use a consistent “From” address, even if your “From” name needs to change. For instance, all emails should

come from the address but you may need to assign different names depending on the audience or the purpose of the email such as “Your Company Newsletter” or “Your Company Customer Service.” ...Use a “From” name that creates familiarity and credibility.


 …create complicated or misleading “From” names. For

instance, don’t use the name “Customer Service” if your email is not, in fact, a customer service-oriented message.

 …use many different “From” addresses.  …repeat your company name in the subject line if you

used it in the “From” line. It wastes valuable real estate.

4. Ensure Every Email is Wanted If customers want your email, they are more likely to add you to their address book or Safe Sender list, and they are less likely to report emails from your company as spam. It should be a fundamental (but very important) part of your overall email strategy to send email only to those who want to receive it. It’s also one of the best ways to ensure a high deliverability rate. If customers don’t report your emails as spam, your email reputation will remain intact. Emailers with good reputations experience less aggressive filtering of their emails by the ISPs, and a higher overall deliverability rate for their email campaigns.


 …regularly solicit your subscriber base for structured

feedback and for updates to their contact information and preferences. This, in addition to creating an easy way for subscribers to set their preferences at sign-up.

Lyris, Inc. | 5858 Horton Street, Suite 270 | Emeryville CA 94608 USA | Toll free 888.GO.LYRIS (465.9747) | International calls 510.844.1600 | Fax 510.844.1598 | Customer support 888.LYRIS.CS (597.4727) or 571.730.5259

Deliverability Do’s & Don’ts Guide




 …“spray & pray.” If you send mass emails to a large list

…develop an email design that is beautiful to look at but

without targeting or following the best practices listed above, you are practicing a huge “don’t” that will result in a poor reputation score, high spam rates and a low conversion rate.

5. Create a Recognizable Corporate Brand

that has not been viewed for its rendering in the most commonly-used email clients. That beautiful design could get most of your email caught in spam filters, resulting in very poor deliverability.

…over-design. Test simple text-only versions of your

emails against beautifully designed emails. It’s often the simple one that achieves the best results – if only because it wins in terms of its deliverability

Your brand is an important part of creating credibility and familiarity with your email audience. It is important to ensure that all mediums that represent your brand (including those outside email) create a positive overall impression of the brand.

6. Validate and Test Your Email

Brand image is created by imagery and logos as well as the type of service customers receive from your company, the “voice” you use in all messaging, and the way you fulfill on any promise you make to your prospects and customers.

Rendering does not end with the email client. Most rendering issues are due to poorly-constructed HTML. Some ISPs will filter mail into the spam folder purely because the HTML is not coded properly.

Think of any major name brand. If the images were stripped out of an email that company sent, would you still be able to identify the brand? If so, that company has created a recognizable corporate brand, and you can too.


 … develop HTML versions of your email that convey

your most important points without the use of background images and be sure to always include a full link to your site.

 …view how your HTML email design will render in the most commonly-used email clients such as Outlook 2007, and Keep in mind that most ISPs have turned images “off” by default, so your messages may render inappropriately.

 …use your corporate “voice” when communicating


 …always ensure your HTML is validated against current industry standards.

 …review the look of your emails across the top ISPs and Desktop clients.

 …work with an HTML designer who is well-versed in the latest spam filters. Then, test your email code and rendering.


…skip pre-deployment tests on text emails; they should be tested just as you would HTML emails. Just because you sent email in a more viewable format (e.g. text versus HTML) does not mean it renders properly.

in email. This may include a tagline or other highly recognizable messaging, but it may be as simple as word choice.

Lyris, Inc. | 5858 Horton Street, Suite 270 | Emeryville CA 94608 USA | Toll free 888.GO.LYRIS (465.9747) | International calls 510.844.1600 | Fax 510.844.1598 | Customer support 888.LYRIS.CS (597.4727) or 571.730.5259

Deliverability Do’s & Don’ts Guide


7. Test Text vs. Rich Text vs. HTML Consider the implications of different email formats based on your customer preferences and behavior. Text emails may outperform HTML. However, be sure to test various formats against different segments to find out exactly which format works best with each segment of your target audience.


 …test your content on a regular basis and ensure use of the most current standards in all of your communications. In some cases, sending emails in multi-part mime (MME) is enough – but not always. Multi-part emails are sent in both text and HTML versions and, upon delivery, the email renders itself according to the setting of the email client. Many believe that multi-part emails can mitigate the risk of low deliverability.

 …send text emails, when in doubt. Don’t…

 …forego testing your content on a regular basis. Testing allows you to determine how your emails will render and anticipate any deliverability issues before you deploy your email. Thus, it is an important step and should not be skipped.

8. Monitor the Delivery of Your Email Consistent monitoring of your campaigns for delivery to the Inbox, spam and missing folders will provide you with valuable insight into the performance of your campaigns. Over time you will begin to see trends that provide greater insight into your overall performance and program metrics. And you can develop new strategies with that information in hand.


 …use the deliverability monitoring feature in your ESP (email service provider) to monitor every aspect of each deployment. You’ll also want to monitor trends across different deployments to the same audience, with the same offer and/or over a distinct period of time.

 …test variables to optimize deliverability. To help determine the variable that causes changes in deliverability, use only single-variable test cells, and then read the deliverability results across cells. If you have truly isolated one variable, you’ll be able to attribute that change in deliverability to something specific in the email. Over time, you’ll build up a factual knowledge base that can help you optimize deliverability of future campaigns.


 …get “too busy” to read the metrics. You can spend a

lot of time repeating avoidable mistakes if you skip the analysis. If you don’t consistently monitor all aspects of your email deliverability, you are missing out on data that will help you be more efficient and effective with your email marketing campaigns. And how else will you know if your email is reaching the Inbox or not?

9. Actively Manage your Database and your Bounce Rate Active management of your database and your bounces can reduce your email delivery costs and increase conversions. A poorly managed database can quickly result in high bounce rates, poor delivery rates and declining campaign performance. Be sure to manage your datbase to avoid both soft and hard bounces.

Lyris, Inc. | 5858 Horton Street, Suite 270 | Emeryville CA 94608 USA | Toll free 888.GO.LYRIS (465.9747) | International calls 510.844.1600 | Fax 510.844.1598 | Customer support 888.LYRIS.CS (597.4727) or 571.730.5259

Deliverability Do’s & Don’ts Guide


A soft bounce is an email message that gets as far as the recipient’s mail server (it recognizes the address) but is bounced back undelivered before it gets to the intended recipient. A soft bounce might occur because the recipient’s mailbox is full, the server is down or swamped with messages, the message is too large or the user has abandoned the mailbox. Most email service providers will attempt to deliver the email regularly for a few days. If it is still undelivered after several attempts, it becomes a hard bounce. A hard bounce is an email message that has been returned to the sender and is permanently undeliverable. Causes for a hard bounce include invalid addresses (domain name doesn’t exist, typos, changed address, etc.) or the email recipient’s mail server has blocked your server. Servers will also interpret bounces differently, meaning a soft bounce on one server may be classified as a hard bounce on another.


 … keep your lists clean with regular maintenance and a

 …regularly monitor your hard and soft bounce rates both soft & hard bounce notices can provide invaluable information regarding the ISP’s treatment of your mail, and can illuminate important trends. For instance, if you see that a large or growing number of your emails are being returned as a hard bounce that is a clue that there is a deliverability issue that needs to be investigated.

 …track hard bounces by source so you can determine if

there is an issue with a specific domain or email client. If that’s the case you can make adjustments to your email or your list accordingly.


 …let your list grow stale or outdated. Lax management

of your list acquisition or maintenance process can result in sky high bounce rates in a hurry.

 …make opting out difficult. This is particularly critical in B2B marketing. Opting out should be as simple as opting in; don’t be tempted to put in extra steps or to send ‘just one more email’.

strict suppression/unsubscribe process - hygiene matters.

 …acquire and remove names responsibly to ensure your URLs are not irreversibly damaged, and so deliverability is not severely impacted by complaints and bad addresses.

 …be smart with appends, list rentals, blind/generic co-registration programs, affiliate programs and sponsorships. Verify the name sources, vet source reputation and delivery, and verify addresses prior to adding them to your house-file.

10. Know & Obey the Law Today, most countries have some form of online and emailrelated legislation. You are required to follow and adopt these laws when deploying an online marketing strategy or sending commercial email. In the U.S., online markets are governed nationally by the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, which outlines the requirements that commercial email marketers must adopt in order to comply.

 …allow an “Unsubscribe from all” option – even if you use specific campaign opt-outs.

Lyris, Inc. | 5858 Horton Street, Suite 270 | Emeryville CA 94608 USA | Toll free 888.GO.LYRIS (465.9747) | International calls 510.844.1600 | Fax 510.844.1598 | Customer support 888.LYRIS.CS (597.4727) or 571.730.5259

Deliverability Do’s & Don’ts Guide



 …download and familiarize yourself with the CANSPAM Act of 2003: business/ecommerce/bus61.shtm

 …consult with your legal team or another qualified resource to fully understand the legal requirements you must adopt nationally - or internationally if your email is being deployed to addresses outside of the U.S


About Lyris Founded in 1994, Lyris Technologies provides easy-to-use, advance software and services for email marketing and email delivery as well as other online marketing disciplines such as search marketing and web analytics. Lyris’ solutions are available as software or as hosted applications and are used by agencies and more than 5,000 customers worldwide, from Fortune 500 corporations to fast growing startups. To find out more about Lyris’ products and services, please contact us at

 …ignore the law or think it doesn’t apply to you.

Ignorance of the law is not an acceptable defense for non-compliance. The law is rigorously enforced and should be integrated into all campaign execution.

Summary Email marketing still remains one of the most dynamic and impactful marketing channels for reaching current and potential customers. As we see the maturity of Web 2.0 initiatives, more and more companies will harness the power of that medium because it’s quick to execute, relatively inexpensive, highly segmentable against a ta get, and can result in exceptional ROI. Online marketers have only begun to scratch the surface of the potential of email….and deliverability is a major key to getting results from this important medium.

Lyris, Inc. | 5858 Horton Street, Suite 270 | Emeryville CA 94608 USA | Toll free 888.GO.LYRIS (465.9747) | International calls 510.844.1600 | Fax 510.844.1598 | Customer support 888.LYRIS.CS (597.4727) or 571.730.5259

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