Return Path is currently hosting a four-part series for our customers on the importance of the subscriber experience. The success of an email program starts and ends with subscriber engagement. If customers aren’t reading (or even receiving!) your emails, the conversions are going to be minimal at best.
Session one focused on Decoding Deliverability, with emphasis on how subscriber engagement (or the lack of) can directly impact your inbox placement. We also discussed how email marketers and mailbox providers have a different set of success metrics for email performance, some hidden metrics influencing your brand’s inbox placement, and we covered where to find this valuable information within the Return Path tools.
In this follow-up blog, we’re answering some of the great questions we received from our webinar attendees that we were unable to cover within the session:
Q: I work for a non-profit, and our campaigns get sent 98 percent to the “promotions” or “social” folder. How can we assess what to do differently to get into the main inbox? Is this based on our content? Deliverability score? Combination of all?
A: Based on Return Path research, only about 33 percent of Gmail users even use the tabbed inbox. For those that are placed in tabs, you can see that from the chart below that each tab has its own average read rate, and Social (22.4 percent) actually scores a bit higher than the Primary (22 percent) and Promotional (19.2 percent) tabs! But if you want to ensure that you reach the Primary folder more frequently, we suggest that you focus on testing your content. The less images and links, the more likely you are to be placed in the Primary tab. And a $ will practically guarantee the promotions tab, even if you are asking for a $ donation. It’s worth doing some testing, but ultimately Gmail will place your email based on their subscribers’ behavior.
Q: What are the best practices in terms of email frequency? Can too much email per week trigger spam?
A: All subscribers have their own preferences as to how frequently they would like to hear from you. Both complaints and unsubscribes can be an indicator that subscribers feel overwhelmed by the frequency of messaging from your brand, and mailbox providers take note of that as well. In a study from MarketingSherpa, receiving too many emails was the top reason for why subscribers decided to unsubscribe. As a potential solution, group subscribers by engagement levels and determine whether these different segments have different rates of unsubscribes and complaints. If so, you may want to consider establishing different frequency limits for different engagement levels.
Q: We have trouble with MSN blocking our emails even when throttled (2500 per hour) even when our sender score is fine.
A: If Microsoft is blocking your emails, you will want to take a look at those hidden metrics we discussed in the session, particularly complaints, spam trap hits, etc. on Reputation Monitor. Refining your audience selection to remove subscribers that are less engaged will help reduce both the complaints and the spam traps that may be driving those blocks. Also make sure you look at the information contained within Campaign Monitor. If you see a low “Read Rate” or many “Inactive Users,” that is another indicator that you need to tweak your audience selection.
Q: When do you decide to transition to a new IP address and warm up properly, when your current one has horrible reputation due to poor warmup and list hygiene issues? Our current IP address has been active for two years and still having poor reputation.
A: When you have reputation issues, the key is to understand why. A poor warm up process will not plague you for two years unless you continue to have poor sending practices. The fastest ways to rectify that is to 1) make sure that you are utilizing your feedback loop data to suppress hard bounces and complainers, plus implement engagement (open/click) filters to ensure that you are emailing subscribers that are still interested in hearing from you. That will also help remove spam traps.
Q: How will the Internet of Things impact inbox placement?
A: We expect that the IoT where everything is assigned an IP address will, unfortunately, result in more spoofing emails. You’ll need to stay on top of your brand’s sending reputation and inbox placement, and quickly investigate any anomalies.
Keep an eye out for the remaining series follow-ups as each of these sessions completes. And if you are a Return Path customer who missed the chance to register for these webinars, please reach out to your Return Path Account Manager, and they will be happy to provide a link to the session recordings.
As an Associate Email Strategist on Return Path’s Professional Services team, Bethany helps clients refine and optimize their email marketing programs. She uses her knowledge of customer acquisition, segmentation, deliverability, and email best practices to identify ways to improve the email subscriber experience, ultimately resulting in increased engagement and ROI.
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