Master of Your (Political) Domain

Posted by Brittany Luebke on

If you’ve been paying attention to emails sent this election cycle, you might have noticed the disparity between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s email strategies. From the sender names to the content to the segmentation methods, it’s interesting to compare two markedly different campaigns. But you might not have noticed one of the biggest differences we’ve been watching – the domains the two camps use when sending.

Our interactive tool, Email for President, uses real-life data (of over two million consumer panelists) to compare key metrics like open rate, complaint rate, and email list size. We’ve been looking at this data specifically for since April, and we’ve been surprised to see that domains are an issue.

Why are domains important?
As email marketers, when we reference domains, we’re referring to the sender of the email, not necessarily a website itself. Although a candidate might own many domains, their communications usually come from only one—and for good reason. It adds legitimacy in the same way that a company uses the address of their headquarters when doing a physical mailing.

Prior to the first fundraising email sent in June 2016, Trump had been using the domain donaldtrump.com. He sent very few emails, and none of them called upon readers to fund his campaign. On June 21, 2016, however, he sent his first email requesting donations from donaldjtrump.com. When a large volume of emails is sent from a “cold” email address (one that has not been used on a large scale before), Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will often view it as spam. And for the first fundraising email, this very thing happened—landing nearly 60% of those emails into spam folders.

Why would emails be sent from multiple domains?
There are quite a few reasons why multiple domains could be used—using more than one email service provider, multiple senders, segmenting data sources, different messages, access, etc.—the same issues that you probably encounter with your company and brand. Different people have different things to say and sometimes, that might translate to a situation where multiple domains are necessary.

Emails for this presidential campaign have been sent primarily from two groups—the candidate’s campaign or the party they represent. Clinton’s emails have been consistently sent from hillaryclinton.com. Trump’s emails have come from four domains so far: donaldtrump.com, donaldjtrump.com, trump2016.com, and gopteam.gop. All of these domains now point to donaldjtrump.com.

What if I manage multiple brands/company names/etc.?
As the Trump fundraising email shows, it’s important to do some legwork before any major emails are sent to be sure that they make it to the inbox.

To avoid your emails being flagged as spam—as well as being blacklisted—it’s important to “warm” your new domain and IP address before doing any type of major sends. If your email service provider does not offer assistance with this step, or you’re not a Return Path customer, you can do it manually by slowly increasing the amount of emails that you send. Your sending reputation will become established and you’ll be able to complete larger and larger email sends to your intended audience. You can repeat for each domain you send for—but sending for multiple domains from a single IP address can potentially cause deliverability issues as well.

You’ll also want to set up email authentication tools for your domain. We’re written about SPF, DMARC, and DKIM before and though it’s nothing new, it’s one of the most important steps you’ll take to increase your deliverability. Brian Krebs, a former journalist and now writer about all things Internet and computer security-related, did an overview about the differences in the two campaigns’ tactics to email security here.

Consider Return Path’s Domain Certification if your organization is managing multiple domains across multiple IP addresses. Domain certification will also work if you’re using a shared IP address.

Should I be doing anything differently with my email marketing?
These publicized deliverability and spam issues are a good reminder for to double check your processes with your own email marketing efforts. Some recommendations:

  • Ensure that your email authentication tools are set up. Your email service provider, IT department, and partners (such as Return Path) are great resources to help with this.
  • Double check your deliverability and spam rates. You might not necessarily see a spike with this data, but are the numbers steadily trending upward? This could indicate issues in the future.
  • Take a step back. Could you streamline your sending and just use one domain instead of two? Asking questions could improve your reputation and deliverability, resulting in increased sales.

We’ll be watching the presidential campaign data up until November 8th to see what happens. To keep up, visit our Email for President interactive tool.


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About Brittany Luebke

Brittany is a Digital Marketing Coordinator at Return Path. You can find her writing through our corporate social media channels - Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Outside of work, you can find Brittany spending time with her family, walking her dog, or cooking up something in the kitchen a la Martha Stewart. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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