Email marketing can be a brilliant promotional tool, but it is only effective if your emails are seen. A lot of online marketers get so obsessed with building up a large mailing list subscriber base that they forget to think about how many of those subscribers actually look at the emails that are being sent.
If you already have a mailing list, take a moment today to check the open rate of your messages. How many of your subscribers are really seeing the emails that you send out? You may find that the open rate is far lower than you expect.
Why Mails Don’t Get Seen
One of the main reasons why emails don’t get seen is that they often don’t even make it into the subscriber’s email inbox in the first place. A lot of the biggest email providers have aggressive spam filtering policies which mean that all but the most innocuous of personal emails has a high chance of getting flagged as spam. If your email includes words like “special offer” or “discount” then the chances of it getting delivered are very slim.
Some email providers, such as Gmail, go slightly easier on the spam filtering, but filter promotional messages into a separate inbox called “promotions” – again, this is less than ideal. Few people check the promotions inbox, because they think of it as yet another place for spam to go. So, how can you make sure that people see your emails, and, even better, actually open them?
Don’t Trip The Spam Filter
Spam filters work using some fairly simplistic measures. Firstly, they check the subject line. It is important that you avoid common “stop words” – anything sexual or to do with the finance industry should be avoided. In addition, you should try to avoid words that sound commercial.
Discount, special offer and sale are all words that are probably best avoided. To be honest, even if these words weren’t on a massive “stop list” they would be best stayed away from anyway – not because they’re spammy but because they’re hardly engaging. If someone isn’t looking to buy right now (and most people aren’t looking to make a purchase when they are checking their email) then why would they be interested in getting money off something?
Another thing to beware of is misleading subject lines, and blank subject lines. A blank subject line is highly likely to lead to your email being sent to the spam folder, and a subject line that does not match the copy of your email at all is a red flag too.
Other red flags include subjects that are in all-caps, and ones that include a large number of symbols or foreign characters.
The Body of Your Mail
Make sure that there’s plenty of content in the body of your email. A very short message that basically says “Click this” and then includes a link is unlikely to get past spam filters. Another thing that is likely to get your email flagged as junk is excessive use of the color red – e.g. red backgrounds or red text.
Try to avoid having too many links inside your email. Ideally, your email should have no more than three links in it – although it is OK to have more if you have plenty of text.
The one link that you should always include is an unsubscribe link. People are more likely to view your emails with suspicion if there is no unsubscribe link.
Of course, if you do include an unsubscribe link, make sure that it works, and that it communicates clearly to the user how quickly the request will be processed. If you have a huge email list and schedule mails to go out over a period of a day or so, make it clear that the user may get one or more mails from you before the request is processed – but make sure that they are removed, and that you do not add them back to your list.
Stop Users From Flagging You
Some email providers use a system where individual users can flag emails as spam, and this helps to improve the spam filtering algorithm. If enough users flag your emails as spam then you could end up in a situation where your mailing list provider or your company email address gets put onto a spam list. This is not something that you want to have happen.
One of the main reasons why people flag emails as spam is because they forget that they have subscribed to a list, so when an email comes in they automatically think it is junk. You can prevent this by including an explanation of why they got the email – such as “You are receiving this because you purchased a product from us/requested more information”, and also by maintaining regular contact with the list subscribers.
It is not a good idea to go weeks or months between sending emails. If you have a mailing list, send out an email on the same day each week, every week. This will help to ensure that people remember your brand name and remember that they have subscribed to the list. It will also, in the long term, help to increase your conversion rate.
Check your bounce list on a regular basis, and if you see that a given email address is consistently bouncing, be sure to remove it. This will help to prevent mail servers from blacklisting your email address because of repeated failed delivery attempts. Every little helps when it comes to improving your delivery rate.
In addition, try to choose a reputable email provider. There are a lot of mailing list services out there, including cloud based services such as Mail Chimp, Infusionsoft and Constant Contact as well as free self-hosted services such as PHPList. Check the email delivery rate for a few different services, and choose the one that has the best statistics for your niche.