May 7, 2020
During this unprecedented period, it’s of the utmost importance to communicate efficiently with your various audiences. Dramatically increasing email volume and mass-send tactics can impact deliverability and the likelihood that your messages will even be seen. In this session, we’ll discuss ways to stay out of the spam folder, and other strategies to help ensure your accounts are set up for success.
Speakers: John Peters, Deliverability Specialist at Emma and Kacyn Goranson, Director of Marketing Operations at Emma
[Kacyn] Hi, we’ll be getting started shortly. We just want to give everyone a moment to join.
Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining us today for a discussion around higher ed and deliverability best practices. One quick housekeeping item before we begin, please use the chat panel at any point to submit a question, and we will do our best to answer any questions for you. I’m Kacyn Goranson, director of marketing operations.
My co-host, John Peters, deliverability specialist, is joining as well.
– [John] Hi, everyone, and thank you for joining the webinar.
– Before we begin, I wanted to introduce CM Group, the parent company of Emma. We have seven different products in our family of brands. Campaign Monitor, CM Commerce, Delivra, Liveclicker, Sailthru, Vuture, and, of course, Emma. No matter your email needs, we have a solution that works for you. Now, let’s dig into email deliverability and why it’s important.
John, want to get us started?
– For sure, Kacyn. Thank you. I thought it would be really cool to talk about the mechanics behind email delivery and deliverability because, you know, until I started working here, I had no idea that emails were complicated. I thought like I think most people do that when you click Send, the email is instantly delivered to the person’s inbox.
It’s only when I started working here that I had an appreciation of just the many hops and the different steps it takes to actually get the email from when you click Send to it actually arriving in the inbox. And I think breaking that down and understanding some of that mechanics makes us better email senders.
So, I think it’s worthwhile to go through that. So, here’s a simplified version of the journey of the email that it takes to get to the inbox. So we’ll start at when the person clicks Send in Emma. What Emma does is it gathers the subscriber email address and starts the conversation with the receiving server.
The receiving server is just the server that you want to send the email to. So it could be Gmail, could be Yahoo, it could also be your own internal server if you’re sending email to staff or current students. So once that conversation begins with the mailbox provider, the mailbox provider is checking that the email address is valid. They’re also looking at the IP reputation and the domain reputation, and there’s some authentication checks that are happening at this end.
Then once the mailbox provider has verified all those checks, the actual transfer of the email begins, and Emma starts sending the data over to the mailbox provider. And this would be the header of the email address and the actual email content. Once this is received by the mailbox provider, they’re going to check your sender reputation, they’re going to do more authentication checks, and they’re also going to run some spam filters.
And assuming that, you know, you are able to pass all those checks and safeguard by the inbox provider, your email is going to land in the person’s inbox. Some of the other things that may happen is that after the mailbox provider receives the email, they may filter the email as spam or as junk. The other thing that could happen is, of course, that the email is invalid or there’s some temporary error, which may cause a soft bounce or a hard bounce.
So that’s a little bit about, you know, the hops that an email address…sorry, the email goes through to get to the email address. So, I’d like to also make a distinction between delivery and deliverability. And we can use the analogy of actually delivering mail. So in this analogy, Emma can be the truck, and what we’re doing is we are delivering those packages, those emails for our clients.
Now, what we want to do is, first of all, find the right place to deliver them. So, if we use an apartment complex, we could say this is Gmail’s apartment complex. What we want to do is get past the security guard. That would be delivery. Once we’re past the security guard, that’s the ISP or the inbox provider, we can then start deliverability.
And deliverability is actually getting the email to that individual subscriber. So, you know, John Doe lives in Apartment 12C, we actually want to get that email to that individual. So, that’s the difference between delivery and deliverability. Of course, you can always have successful delivery and then unsuccessful deliverability because the email landed in the junk or the trash, and it didn’t get to the individual.
And this applies both for when you’re delivering emails to your own servers or if you’re delivering emails to external servers, like Gmail or other business domains. So, it’s kind of interesting the way that, you know, email, and delivery, and deliverability has changed over time. You know, I remember when I first got an email address back in the day at university, it was Hotmail.
And everyone had Hotmail, everyone using, you know, MS Messenger, and then slowly people transitioned to Yahoo, and now Gmail is the royalty of emails. Most people, when they’re creating a new email address, if it’s for personal use, its probably going to be with Gmail. And the reason why that shift happened had to do with the way these inbox providers managed spam and managed junk.
Kacyn, do you remember your first email address or who you had it with?
– I don’t remember my actual email address, John, but I do know it was a Hotmail address. The funny thing about Hotmail back in the day was it didn’t really matter what the email was, you were getting it. Shopping ads, they came in just the same as emails from your mom or your dad. Myspace emails definitely got top priority in that inbox placement, but over time, as we migrated from Hotmail to the Gmails of the world, we learned what emails we wanted to interact with and so did our email provider.
Overall, we started getting spam filters, we started getting folders, and everything kind of came in a different way. So, why is that? Your email inbox started learning what you were interacting with. Were you opening the emails? Were you clicking the emails? Were you marking them spam or unsubscribing?
And not just you, what was everyone else doing? For example, were you getting six emails a day from the same exact company? Maybe you opened one? Maybe you didn’t open any of them? Your ISP started learning that behavior and started limiting the deliverability of those emails. I know, I know.
We’re all mentally jumping straight to spam emails that we immediately put into our trash. The bot emails, the magic weight loss pills, the “get completely fit in 20 second” emails. I’m not talking about those when I’m talking about spam. Well, I am, but I’m also talking about other emails. They’re the ones that you don’t want or you never consented to receive. Those are also considered spam.
Even the emails that you like getting, but you’re never opening and you always just click delete, those are spam. So they really play into deliverability, and your engagement with these emails create signals, combining with other people’s inbox signals, and that is what gets delivered. So at the end of the day, you, the subscribers, are the ones holding the power to your deliverability rate.
How subscribers interact with your emails, opening, clicking, deleting, marking spam, ignoring, those are the signals to their ISP about the quality of this content. So what does this specifically mean for ISPs, and what do they need to consider about deliverability practice? John is going to dive into these three tips for the next few slides.
First, we recommend implementing permission practices. Second, we recommend that you segment your audiences so that the content they are receiving is relevant to them. And third, understand authentication and whitelisting, and how that impacts your deliverability. John, do you want to explain a little bit about these recommendations and how they specifically relate to higher ed?
– Yeah, sure thing, Kacyn. So, when we talk about permission, there’s a few things to consider, and it’s quite important because when we’re talking about permission and Emma, as with most reputable ESPs, Email Service Providers, most require that you have explicit opt-in to send emails. Now, one of the exceptions to this is when you’re sending emails to your own domain, so for example, the university is using Emma to send emails to its own domain, which are the email addresses that the students and the staff are actually using.
In that, it’s understood that you would be getting emails from your organization and you’re sending emails to your own domain because there’s that ongoing relationship as a student or as a staff member. But the reason why permission is extremely important is because it directly impacts on user engagement.
We know that if people have opted into an email, they’re going to open it, they’re going to click on the links, and these are all positive signals that are going to the mailbox provider that these emails are wanted and they are trusted emails because the user is engaging with them. So permission is really good because it increases engagement, which increases deliverability and trust.
If we were to encapsulate deliverability, we can say deliverability is all about trust. You want to show the mailbox provider that your emails are trusted, they have good engagement with the subscriber, and if they’re trusted, that mailbox provider is going to accept more emails and also filter them to the inbox. So it impacts both delivery and deliverability. The other thing I want to talk about permission and collecting emails is about unsecure signup forms.
So spambots are a rogue script that a bad actor has created, and what they’re doing is they want to use this to fill your mailbox and fill your subscriber list with junk email addresses or non-permission-based email addresses. And universities can be especially targeted by these spambots because of the large infrastructure that a university may have.
So it’s not a matter of if this is going to happen, it’s a matter of when a spambot is going to attack your signup form, and extremely important to have it secured with a CAPTCHA. Emma subscriber forms already come with the CAPTCHA form. If you’re not using an Emma-subscribed form, you can always use Google’s CAPTCHA form, which has an invisible option. So the CAPTCHA form will only show up if it detects that there’s something malicious or untoward happening on your signup form.
So it’s really quite important to have that as part of your permission practices and email collection practices. Which leads us nicely to the…you know, once you have that email list, how can you smartly manage this to be more effective in your marketing? Welcome journeys are a great way of encouraging new subscribers to engage with your emails.
You’re managing their expectations, and you’re setting up a long-lasting relationship. The other thing a welcome journey does is that you know that people who’ve recently subscribed to your list are going to be the most active and engaged people. And once again, it’s that boost to your sender reputation. It’s, again, sending those positive messages to the mailbox provider. The other thing is with segmenting and personalizing emails.
We know from research that, you know, there’s an increase of about 760% in revenue by sending targeted segmented campaigns. The days of, you know, spray and pray are long gone. If that strategy ever worked, it certainly doesn’t work now, and it doesn’t work for something as personal as emails.
We also know that, on average, using personalization can have a 20% increase on ROI sales. So, it’s really quite important to segment and personalize your emails. Now, when it comes to managing a database and managing a list, I like to compare that a little bit to having a house plant. So your email list can be considered like a houseplant.
It needs constant attention, you need to pay attention to it, take care of it, and just like you want to have new growth with the house plant’s new leaves, sometimes it’s important to also prune and remove, you know, the leaves that are not doing so well or just remove if they’re dead. And this sounds a little bit harsh, but this is a perfectly normal, natural way of managing your database.
You want to be focusing on your active subscribers, the people who are engaging with your list. You want to try and segment the dormant subscribers, people who perhaps haven’t opened an email in the last six months, and you want to try and re-engage them with re-engagement campaigns. You also want to segment out the people who are completely dormant. Let’s say you’ve been emailing, you know, every week, and someone hasn’t opened an email in 12 months or 18 months.
It’s very unlikely that that person is going to open an email you send them next week or next month. It’s much better to remove regularly those inactive contacts so that, over time, they don’t grow and become the majority of your list. Because when it comes to deliverability, majority wins. So if the majority of your list is inactive, that’s definitely going to have an impact to your delivery to your engaged and active subscribers.
So it’s very important to remove those regularly. The other reason why it’s really important to remove them is because spamtraps are a real thing, especially when it comes to universities, they can be a real threat. Now, spamtraps are an email address or an email domain that’s become inactive over time, and then that domain gets purchased by an anti-spam organization, which is going to then start monitoring emails that are being still sent to this expired domain.
And that’s a way for them to say, “Oh, this sender who’s still sending emails, they shouldn’t be doing this. If they have active ongoing list management, they would have removed these domains and these addresses from their list.” This is a way to identify people who are sending emails to inactive old and dormant lists. And what happens if you start hitting too many spamtraps is that your IP or your domain is going to get blacklisted.
And if it gets blacklisted, that’s a really strong signal that, you know, something’s gone wrong, and it needs to be fixed. We work with clients, universities, and higher education organizations who had issues with sending to old lists and hitting spamtraps, and we’ve managed to get them back to a good place with their emails. But, you know, prevention is always better than cure, and one of the ways to do that is by having ongoing list management.
So I think Kacyn is going to talk a little bit more about engagements and segments, and especially how you can do this with Emma.
– Thanks, John. So before we get to our final tip for deliverability, we want to show you some examples on how you can do that smart list management within the Emma platform. Here, you can see a segment where we’re trying to target all active donors. They have opened and clicked emails within the past 30 and 14 days, and they’ve also donated to the university in the past month, and you can set it to any Last Gift Amount.
When you execute this, you’ll be able to see exactly who the audience is that you’re trying to engage with a campaign like this. Another example here is really trying to target those audiences that need to go into a re-engagement campaign. There are donors who have donated but just not recently. They also haven’t opened or engaged with any emails in the past six months. Taking this list, as John mentioned, kind of pruning our dead leaves or giving them a little bit of extra water, we can take that specific segment and try to reengage them.
This simple workflow in the Emma platform triggers so that we send that audience an email to reengage. If they don’t open that email, we’ll try one more time, and if they’re not able to re-engage, we’ll move them off of these programs and put them into that list where we just don’t send to them again. Here, you can see a simple dashboard of how these email campaigns perform and how easy it is to review their results.
John’s mentioned a few key areas that you’d want to pay attention to on this type of dashboard, deliverability rate, and Bounce Rate, Open, Click-to-Open Rate, and also your Unsubscribe Rate. Definitely want to monitor all of those for each of the campaigns you send. John, do you want to get to our last recommendation?
– Yeah, for sure, Kacyn. Thank you. I wanted to talk a little bit about authentication and break that down a little bit and also whitelisting, especially when it comes to university and higher education organizations. So, dealing with authentication first, I know this can be kind of a scary topic or it might seem very technical, but we can break it down quite easily.
Authentication is a way to validate that whoever is sending emails for you is authorized to send those emails for you. So, if we kind of think of authentication like it’s a stamp or a mark that proves that this is a trusted email, suppose you’re buying a gold ring or a diamond, you want to have, like, a stamp or a mark that the person who’s selling this gold ring or diamond ring to you is someone who is authorized and is a trusted sender.
Same thing with SPF and DKIM, it’s a technical setup that when you send emails through Emma and they get to the other side where it’s Yahoo, or Gmail, or your own internal servers, you can verify, or Gmail and Yahoo can verify that we as Emma are authorized to send those emails on your behalf. And that’s what SPF and DKIM do.
And DKIM is quite easy to set up. Our wonderful support team are always helpful and able to troubleshoot this issue for you. So if you need any help, please reach out to them. DMARC is just something that sits on top of SPF and DKIM, and DMARC is a process to say, “Right, these emails, they passed SPF or DKIM.” You only need to pass one of them.
What’s the next thing that should happen? if you pass SPF or DKIM, DMARC says, “Accept these emails.” If you don’t pass SPF check or a DKIM check, “Reject these emails.” So that’s what SPF, DKIM, and DMARC do. Now, when we’re talking about sending emails to internal domains or business domains, generally, they have quite a lot of strict anti-spam filters and policies in place, so setting up authentication may not be enough.
You may also need to whitelist your detail and Emma’s details so that when the emails are sent to the receiver, the receiver can check their whitelist list and say, “Right, this person is on my list. I can let these people in.” It’s kind of like going to a club and having your name on the bouncer’s checklist.
Whitelisting is like that. They check it, they go, “Right, I know this person, I trust this person, you can let them in. They can bypass those spam filters that we have in place.” So that’s a little bit about authentication. Definitely recommend setting up DKIM, very important, and also if you have some issues sending to B2B domains, consider whitelisting as well.
– Thanks, John. If you don’t mind, I’m going to switch gears just a little bit. We’ve talked about the email journey, we’ve talked about deliverability, now let’s get specific and dig in to how to address emails during a crisis. As we know, crisis communications can have a long-lasting impact on your overall deliverability.
So, while there are times of global or regional crisis, such as coronavirus, or local events, like an incident on campus, or a weather event, we need to factor in what is our crisis plan, and how are we going to communicate to who and when? As a director of marketing operations, the first thing I hear when anything happens, a natural disaster, a mass event, health crisis, anything at all, is, “We should send an email.”
Actually, the second and third thing I hear is also, “We should send an email.” So, I recommend always having a plan in advance on how you would react to different crisises and what would be that answer. It’s important to know when you should send an email and when you should not send an email. If you do need to send an email, who are the people who need to hear from me right now, and what is that message?
Remember that companies everywhere are increasing their communications during events, crises. So think about the user during this period of time. Do they need to hear from you specifically and that message that you’re planning to send to them also specifically? Is it really vital that they get that message? For example, if there’s a natural disaster near your university, does everybody need to hear about what’s going on on campus?
Or is it just the students who live on campus? Maybe all students attending class. Think about do your donors need to hear about those emails? What’s the different situation? What’s the messaging? And even what’s the timing of those emails? Remember that with the general increase in communications around a time of crisis, ISPs can struggle to ingest the high volume of overall emails, and that impacts the deliverability rate of those emails, making it more difficult for important emails to get to the people who need to get them during that time.
– Thanks, Kacyn. I think we’ve had a lot of information coming at our viewers and, you know, it’s nice to summarize a little bit some of the key points. So, I thought it’d be good to highlight a few things here, a few takeaways from the webinar.
First and foremost, explicit permission to send emails is extremely important. It has a direct impact on your sender reputation, and when it comes to BC and B2B email list, engagement is extremely, extremely important. It’s one of the key factors that a mailbox provider is looking at when they’re determining what to do with your emails. List management, it’s an ongoing process.
You really want to be targeting your active subscribers, and segmenting and sending personalized emails, and you always want to make sure that you’re sending relevant and wanted content, especially during a crisis or anything else that may be impacting the mail systems globally or even locally. The other thing you want to do is monitor your email results because it might be crucial that your emails actually get to your target audience, and you want to be monitoring your results.
If you suspect that there might be an issue, it’s important to get in touch with us sooner rather than later, and we can always work through these issues or troubleshoot the problem. And, of course, be mindful of global factors and individual user experience. You know, there’s such a thing as inbox fatigue, where people are just tired of the emails that are coming in. There might also be things like just general fatigue.
You know, people might be tired, they might be…you know, there might be more things going on in their life, and do they really need to see that email? And if they do, you want to make sure that it’s successfully delivered to their inbox. So, those are just some of the things I thought were super important to highlight.
– Thanks, John. Throughout this webinar, you’ve heard us talking about Emma. So why is Emma so great about universities? At Emma, we offer several packages to fit a variety of marketing goals, one of which is Emma HQ. With its multi-account model and approvals processes, Emma HQ makes it easier than ever for universities and colleges to manage email across multiple locations and departments.
Shared assets and template-style locking makes it easier for anyone on your team, no matter their technical expertise, to create beautiful and on-brand emails. We encourage you to visit myemma.com to learn more about Emma and learn more about email best practices by subscribing to our newsletter. It looks like we’re running out of time for today.
Thank you, all, for your time and attention in joining us to learn about deliverability. We will be following up with a checklist and a glossary for you to print out and keep at your desk.
– Awesome. Thank you so much for joining us. Thanks, Kacyn.
– Thanks, John.