previous blog posts we’ve looked at reputation management and
some tips to see how we can keep up to date with our data. However,
at some point or other, despite everyone’s best intentions, there
will be people who no longer wish to interact with your email.
Hopefully they’ll respect the ways of email list management
and unsubscribe in a nice attributable way, and we can then respect
their wishes. Most people do behave in a sensible manner and use
either the unsubscribe link in the email (you provided that in
there, didn’t you?) or from the header (don’t worry about that
one, we put that in there). However, some people do unsubscribe in
Sometimes they get the feeling that you’re not listening to
them because they sent a reply to the campaign to you to tell you
to stop. You reviewed the information and put it on your to-do
list, however the day got away from you, and the campaign you sent
out that evening got to that recipient’s inbox before you’d had
the chance to manually suppress that record. So they decided that
they’d rather inform their ISP that you’re not listening to
them and they put a complaint in about you.
The bigger ISPs (Verizon, Microsoft and Google) all run what are
called Complaint Lists. This is where (unsurprisingly) they manage
and maintain a list of complaints about email campaigns. Whilst
exact practices for handling complaints are hard to come by unless
you know the ISP, what happens in principle is this: They review
the header information of the email that you sent out, and take a
note of the IP address (remember that IP reputation we discussed in
a previous blog) and Header information. From this they start to
compile a list of campaigns from either your subdomain or the IP
you’re sending from.
If an ISP sees a significant number of people complaining about
the same message, it will start flagging these on a Complaint List
against the IP Address from which the messages originated
(remember, they’re buried in the header and can’t be changed).
Once this starts happening, then you have to be careful because
once you near 0.5% of the recipients you’ve targeted on your
campaign at that ISP, you will start to be viewed as a Bad Sender
and that’s when you can run into problems. This score gets used
in the rules to determine how your next email campaign will be
handled next time. Just like the stock market, however, these
scores can go down as well as up. I’m guessing you’re wanting
the scores to go down as they’re a negative factor in
deliverability. And if you’re behaving like a good sender, they
will go down.
It should go without saying (particularly in light of the
various Privacy laws enacted around the world such as GDPR,
CAN-SPAM, PECR etc) that being able to prove that the person
you’ve sent to actually requested this stuff is the best
situation because you have what is called Proof of Optin. This
isn’t a get out of jail free card, but does at least show that at
some time the recipient interacted with you and you are only doing
what you told them you’d do all along (you did tell them you were
going to email them, right? And they did agree that that was OK?
Good, just Checking!)
It should go without saying but always ensure that you can prove
optin for people you’re sending to. Historically, companies that
have bought data are on very dodgy ground here, particularly if the
list in any way pre-dates legislation. Even today, most bought data
is fraught with risk so we would strongly advise against using it
(it’s even part of our Terms and Conditions that you mustn’t
use bought data). It therefore makes sense to ensure that you’re
using the best possible data collection methods and always make it
clear to recipients (either by a Welcome Automation or similar
series of messages to explain) what you’re going to be sending
these people, and how often you’re going to be doing it. This
minimises the likelihood that someone’s going to complain. The
last thing your marketing team needs to be doing is to spend time
fixing a reputation that was damaged because of an oversight or a
desperate attempt to grow your audience which backfires on you.
We have already reviewed Complaint Lists above, so let’s
review two other key factors:
- Unsubscribe rates
- Targeting dead domains
Unsubscribe rates are (unsurprisingly) the rate at which
individuals unsubscribe from your campaigns. I realise this is a
painful subject because nobody wants to hear that they do not want
to be heard. But sadly in this world, people do unsubscribe.
There’s two or three things to consider when reviewing this:
- Feedback Loops
- List-Header unsubscribes
As I said none of these are particularly desirable, but let’s
look into feedback loops to de-mystify what these actually are.
Feedback Loops are a mechanism by which ISPs (providers such as
Microsoft, Gmail, etc) let ESPs and general senders know that
someone has declared that a message has been flagged as Junk or
Spam. Clearly this is a bad thing but on the other hand it’s
telling you something about that content (or more probably the
subject line, since people don’t tend to read emails if they
don’t like the Subject Line or the Sender).
In any case it’s worth taking a closer look at this. You
should probably use something like our in-platform Spam checker to
see if you’ve used words that may get you into trouble – using
numbers to substitute for letters (a very old spamming technique
was to replace these to offer a R0l3x or Br31tl1ng watch) or
offering monetary rewards in the subject lines, capitalising the
entire subject line or incentivising in some manner are all likely
to be reasons why people object. Steering clear of these sorts of
behaviour will definitely make a difference to deliverability
Targeting Dead Domains
This is something to be avoided. You might say to yourself,
well, if the domain is dead, why do I need to worry? The answer is
simple: at some point in the future it might not be. And what’s
so bad about that? I hear you ask? If a domain expires, and the
people who purchased it the first time around do not bother to
renew it, they are probably no longer in a position to use it. They
might have ceased trading, or wound the company up, or it might
have been bought out.
Either way, the domain no longer serves its purpose. And
assuming that the people who previously owned the domain are still
engaging with you as a business, the old email addresses are no
longer valid. So where’s the harm?
Aside from the loss of credits for each of those you’re
sending to, there’s the added problems that you’re skewing your
numbers which you’re reporting on, and you’re potentially
sending to a domain that could just reactivate at any time. The
problem is that the people who reactivate the domain may not
necessarily do so for the purpose of resuming business, but may
decide to designate some addresses as spam traps.
At this point you’re now suddenly accused of targeting people
who haven’t subscribed to your emails (and we all know how that
could play with GDPR legislation for one thing). Further, you could
wind up getting your IP address blacklisted. For a similar reason
typo’d domains are a bad idea too. You might think you’re not
going to run into problems with hotmial.co.uk instead of
hotmail.co.uk, but sadly this is not the case.
Computers, you see, are either incredibly efficient or
incredibly stupid, depending on your viewpoint. I mean, you and I
both know that the recipient meant to say
hotmail.co.uk but typed
hotmial.co.uk. Could you change it? Yes. Should
you change it? No.
You’ve got no knowledge of whether this was intentional or
not. Therefore you can’t make that judgement call. Again, you
might think this was no great big deal but there’s two problems
at play here – one, you’re using your credits targeting an
individual you cannot reach, and two, despite the fact that that
doesn’t look like a real domain, it is. And there’s an active
mail server sat on it.
I can’t tell you if the recipients on that server are genuine
or not, but this is just an example of how a previously
non-existent or formerly occupied domain can get you into some
pretty hot water. And we don’t need that, do we?
So what can we do about it?
Cleaning lists is a great idea because you’re explicitly
removing the people who are no longer interested in or have never
engaged in the emails you’ve been sending. I’m not talking
about removing people who’ve signed up and are reading your
emails, even if they’ve not committed to a purchase recently, or
ever for that matter. I’m referring to those individuals who you
can’t target, because the emails have bounced or are now blocked.
When you send to addresses that give explicit permission for it,
you have a higher chance of getting your emails delivered. It
should therefore go without saying that targeting people who are
engaged, you’re more likely to make a sale.
It’s a good idea to make sure that your unsubscribe button
works and send content that your subscribers actually want to
receive. Call me old-fashioned, but it’s probably a good idea to
stick with the obvious things you have explained that you’re
telling people about. Going off at a tangent is sometimes
unavoidable (for example, I’m willing to bet that you’ve had to
explain your company’s policies and/or opening hours recently
owing to these extraordinary circumstances), but as long as it’s
the exception, rather than the norm, it’ll be accepted well, and
shouldn’t create a large volume of unsubscribes.
Now that we know and understand these factors we can use this
information to ensure we’re maintaining reputation and best
practice. We’re always available for guidance and discussion
surrounding this and other factors, so you can always reach out to
your Account Manager or Customer Success Manager to seek
In the next part we’ll look at getting on a Blacklist, the
hows, whys (or rather why nots), and what you can do in that
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Source: FS – Email Marketing Blogs!
Email Marketing Reputation. Explained. Part 4.