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5 Steps to Launching Your First Email Newsletter

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We cover everything from finding the right mass email tool to writing fresh and engaging content for your subscribers!

Writing and curating a newsletter is not the easiest marketing strategy, so you might be wondering why businesses decide to invest their time and effort in newsletter marketing at all. Newsletters are not the type of marketing tool that will instantly garner positive metrics and sales, yet more and more businesses are rolling out their own newsletters every day.

Even though they are not the flashiest email marketing tool out there, in the long term, newsletter marketing is extremely effective for businesses of all sizes. The reason newsletters are so effective is because they gradually build a relationship with the recipient and provide them with updates beyond just discounts and new product launches.

When you write compelling content, your target audience will look forward to receiving the latest updates about your company. Additionally, you allow your audience to really get to know your brand without feeling like they are reading a sales pitch. The numbers don’t lie either—more businesses are launching newsletters because they create results, grow brand recognition, and increase brand loyalty.

Today we’re going to be showing you how to launch a successful first newsletter from your business! We’re exploring how you can find the right mass email software to send your messages and going over how you can create beautiful and compelling updates for your target audience. Are you ready to grow your business through newsletter marketing?

Step 1: Finding the Right Mass Email Tool to Launch Your Campaign

It is important to know how you are going to distribute your newsletter before you begin writing and design

Sending mass email
Send hundreds or even thousands of emails with your chosen mass email service.

Before you write a single word or start choosing a template for your first newsletter, you will need to find a mass email tool that you can use to send your messages. Mass email tools, also known as bulk email services, are powerful tools that allow users to send hundreds or even thousands of emails to their target audience. We strongly advise against sending out your first round of mass emails without a mass email tool. Should you try to send out your first newsletter without a bulk email service on your side, the results could be disastrous.

Why Use a Mass Email Service to Send Newsletters?

If you try to send out your newsletter without using a mass email tool, then it is highly likely your messages will be immediately sent to the spam folder. This will happen for two reasons—the first reason is that you are likely to exceed your daily message limit. For a service like Gmail—which is the most popular option for sending email newsletters—users are limited to 500 emails per day. If you accidentally exceed this limit, your messages will be flagged as spam and you will hurt your sender reputation. Once your address is flagged by Gmail, it becomes difficult to send any messages without being flagged as spam.

The second reason that your messages will get flagged as spam is due to the lack of personalization. Personalization is important for any type of mass email, but it is especially important for newsletter marketing. Email personalization is a practice of automatically inputting information from your address list into your messages. This practice is sometimes called a mail merge since you are merging your address list with your written message.

Using personalization, you can directly address the recipient in the subject line of your email, which leads to greater deliverability and open rates. Think about it—you are far more likely to open a message addressed with your name than you are to open an email that looks like it could be sent to anyone. If your newsletters feel too anonymous and lack personalization, users are more likely to report your address as spam which will also damage your sender reputation.

Finding the Right Mass Email Tool For Your Business

Now that we know why it is so important to use a mass email service to help you send out your first newsletter. When you are searching for a mass email tool to help you send out your messages, you should pay special attention to the following features:

  1. Easy to use design capabilities
  2. Message throttling (strategically sending messages so you do not exceed the daily limit)
  3. Mail merge/personalization
  4. Comprehensive reporting capabilities
  5. Effortless campaign scheduling
  6. Automatic address list updates

Though these terms may sound foreign to the first-time email marketer, they are important features that you will need to use as you craft, send, and analyze your first campaign. So, while you are browsing for a mass email service, keep these terms in mind.

One of the great things about these services is that many of them have a limited free options. We recommend trying out a few of these mass email services and choosing the one that you feel is the easiest and most intuitive to use. Once you’ve found one that you feel comfortable using to send out your first newsletter, you can opt to purchase a premium plan with expanded features.

Step 2: Start Working on Your Newsletter Campaign Strategy

Once you’ve found your mass email tool, you are ready to start planning out your first newsletter

Marketing strategic meeting
Your strategy will influence your email newsletter content.

Now that you know how you are going to send out your first newsletter, it’s time to narrow down exactly what you want to say in your newsletter. Depending on your business, there are a lot of different subjects you can talk about. For example, if you run an eCommerce business, you might want to start a lifestyle newsletter that compliments and highlights your product. This creates a strong brand identity and positions your business as a thought leader in the industry. Your newsletter doesn’t always have to directly reference your marquee product or your business. It is often beneficial to avoid directly referencing your business so that your newsletter does not read like sales copy.

Once you’ve settled on what you want to say, the next step in establishing a strategy is to determine how often you want to send your newsletter. We advise against sending out a newsletter too often to avoid annoying your subscribers.

Most newsletters are sent out somewhere between once a week and once a month. Again, the frequency of your emails will depend on your industry and the subject matter that you choose to write about. If your industry has frequent updates, then it may warrant a weekly newsletter. However, for most industries, a monthly newsletter works just fine.

Step 3: Building and Managing Your Address List

Your address list is your most important asset for sending out your first newsletter

Managing newsletter address list
You may be surprised by how easy it is to build an address list.

To start your newsletter, you need to have a list of email addresses ready to go. Without a well-organized list of addresses, sending out a newsletter is nearly impossible. But, how can you collect addresses and other information for your newsletter address list? Let’s take a look at a few key strategies you can use to start cultivating your audience:

  1. Contests – Holding a contest is a great way to gather addresses from your target audience. Encourage your audience to sign up for a chance to win one of your products or services and use the information they provide to start building your address list in a Google sheet.
  2. Pop-Up Forms – Another easy way to start building your address list is by setting up a pop-up form on your website. When users visit your site, they will be prompted to enter their email address and any other relevant information to receive updates from your business.
  3. Social Media – Many people have their email addresses and other basic information like first and last names publicly available on social media. If you have a social media account for your business with a decent following, you can use information that is publicly available on individual profiles to build your address list.

One aspect of list building that we want to address is purchasing address lists. We highly advise against purchasing address lists as these are often illegitimate, out-of-date, and can get your address flagged as spam.

Step 4: Start Planning Out Your Newsletter Content and Design Elements

Start brainstorming content that your target audience will look forward to reading each time they receive your newsletter

Newsletter content planning and design
Make sure your newsletter design is optimized for mobile!

Now that we’ve established how you are going to send your newsletter and gathered some addresses, it’s time to start writing and designing the newsletter. Your first newsletter is important as it will set the tone for future newsletters to come and should engage your readers so that they are interested in more content from your business in the future.

Choosing a Newsletter Template

The first thing you need to get started is a newsletter template. Unless you are a capable graphic designer, you will likely need to start with a newsletter template and customize your first draft from there. Depending on the mass email service that you choose to send your newsletter, it may have some templates and design features built-in that you can use to get started.

When choosing a template, make sure that you choose something that you can easily integrate with your brand including color choice, logos, links, video embeds, and any other design elements you envision for your newsletter.

Establishing a Content Strategy

The next step in creating your newsletter is to decide on a content strategy. The key to writing compelling content is to consider your audience first. Who is your audience? Why are they subscribing to your newsletter? What kind of content do they want/expect from your business? After asking yourself these questions, you can get started brainstorming your content based on your answers.

When you are getting started, you should gather as many ideas as possible so that you can plan out your content a few months in advance. You don’t want to fall behind on your newsletters just because you are stumped for content ideas!

We also highly recommend keeping all of your content as timely and as relevant as possible. If there are news stories or trending topics that apply to your industry, you can plan your content around these updates.

If you run an eCommerce business, you should take advantage of major holidays as a way to showcase your product and give your audience ideas for how your product can be used all year round. For example, if you are running a newsletter for a local flower shop, you should send out a newsletter about the best types of flowers to get your mom for Mother’s Day or a similar topic. By timing your newsletters with current events and holidays, you can ensure that your newsletters are always relevant to your recipients.

If you are truly stumped when it comes to content ideas, there are resources online you can consult for newsletter topic ideas. Just be sure that you are injecting your brand identity into every subject and you will be well on your way to writing compelling content for your target audience.

Elements of a Successful Newsletter

When you begin writing your newsletter, there are a lot of different aspects you need to consider. Sure, you need to draft your copy for the body of your email based on your established content strategy, but there are other aspects of your message that are just as important as your body copy. The elements you need to pay special attention to are as follows:

  1. A strong and personalized subject line that grabs your recipient’s attention
  2. Personalized intro/address to your recipient
  3. A compelling CTA that instructs your recipient on how you want them to interact with your message
  4. A footer that includes an unsubscribe option for your readers

These are all critical elements that every email newsletter should have, so don’t send out your first message without including the aforementioned elements. It may sound counterintuitive to include an unsubscribe option for your newsletter, but it is in your best interest. If you don’t give your audience the option to unsubscribe, they will report your message as spam which hurts your sender reputation.

Step 5: Execute a Mail Merge and Test Your First Email Newsletter

You’re almost there! Only a few more steps and you’re ready to launch your campaign!

Mass email campaign testing
Improve future campaigns with reports from your mass email service.

Now that you have designed and written your message, you are almost ready to hit send. But, before you hit send, you need to initiate a mail merge with your address list and make sure all elements of your newsletter function correctly. A mail merge is what allows you to personalize your message. When you start a mail merge using your mass email service, the information from your address list, including each individual address and any other personalization elements, is automatically placed in your messages.

Once the mail merge is complete, you need to test your messages to make sure there were no errors in personalization, formatting, links, or any other elements of your newsletter. This might just be the most important step of the whole process since you can unsend messages and you certainly don’t want to have to follow up with a correction. Test your message by sending a message to a colleague or to yourself to verify everything is working as it should. Be sure to check both desktop and mobile formatting, too! These days, most people check their email on their smartphone as opposed to a desktop, so it is super important you make sure that everything in your messages shows up correctly on mobile.

Once you’ve tested your first newsletter without issue, you’re ready to send out your first newsletter as a part of your campaign! However, when you hit send your work is far from over. After your messages are sent and your audience begins to interact, you can use your mass email service to pull reports on how your campaign is performing. From there you can improve your newsletter and continue to grow your address list as you gain more subscribers. Before you know it, you’ll be a pro at writing and sending newsletters!

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What is a dedicated IP address and why do you need one?

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A remote work requirement

Whether you’re new to remote work or a seasoned pro looking to up your game, you might be wondering, “What is a dedicated IP address?” or “Do I really need a dedicated IP for remote work?” Both are valid questions — especially now.

Since the shift to remote work, businesses and employees have dealt with increasing security risks and threats. Many telecommuters use VPNs or SSL certificates for a secure remote work experience, but it’s often not enough. Business owners and organizations are also advised to get a dedicated IP address for an added layer of protection.

The question is – is a dedicated IP worth it if you’re working outside of a traditional office space?

Before you decide whether to get a dedicated IP address or not, read on to learn to basics and benefits, including:

What is an IP address?

An internet protocol (IP) address is a unique address assigned to individual computers, servers, domains, or devices over the internet or a local network. Whenever you access a website, your computer communicates to the webserver through the IP address.

IP addresses consist of four sets of numbers, each separated by periods (x.x.x.x), ranging from 0 to 255, which comes out to around 4.2 billion combinations.

The conventional IP address we’re used to is the IPv4 (IP version 4). It was created in the 1980s and used a 32-bit system that didn’t account for how fast the internet would grow. We have long since exhausted those 4.2 billion combinations. Thus, a new internet addressing system called IPv6 was deployed in 1999.

IP addresses and the Domain Name System (DNS)

IP addresses aren’t random. They are produced and assigned by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), part of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

The ICANN is a non-profit organization that maintains internet security. One of its functions is to maintain the domain name system (DNS). You can think of the DNS as a phonebook that matches domain names to IP addresses.

The DNS was born because IP addresses are composed of a string of numbers – making it difficult for users to remember which numbers belonged to which website. Without the DNS, you would have to type in “64.233.187.99” to get to Google and other IP addresses to get to other websites.

How IP addresses work

Your network, devices and the internet use IP addresses to communicate with each other. Let’s look at how IP addresses work when connecting your device to the internet.

Before your device can access the internet, it must connect to a network. That network would likely be your Internet Service Provider (ISP) if you’re at home, while it would be public Wi-Fi if you’re outside your home network.

Internet activity goes through the ISP, which is shared with your device using an IP address. In this case, the ISP assigns an IP address to your device. That assigned IP address, however, is temporary. When you turn your modem or router off, your device gets disconnected from the network. Or, when you travel, your device uses another network to connect to the internet.

That new network you connect to (hotel, coffee shop, or airport Wi-Fi) shares a different IP address. This is but one of many examples of how devices use IP addresses to communicate with each other.

There are several types of IP addresses, which we’ll explore in the next section.

Different types of IP addresses

There are different types of IP addresses, which are further subdivided into different categories.

Consumer IP addresses and website IP addresses are the main types of IP addresses.

Consumer IP address

Consumer IP addresses are assigned to devices connected to the internet. There are two kinds of consumer IP addresses: private and public IP addresses.

These types describe a network’s location: private IP addresses are used inside a network, while public IP addresses are used outside.

Private IP vs. Public IP

Your network router assigns private IP addresses to your devices to communicate with it internally. In contrast, your ISP assigns public IP addresses. The public IP is the primary address associated with your internet network.

Private IP addresses exist because multiple devices connect to a household’s network. Modern homes have computers, smartphones, tablets and even Bluetooth-enabled devices such as speakers, printers or smart TVs connecting to a router at any given time.

Because your router connects to so many devices, it needs a way to identify each item. Thus, it generates private IP addresses that differentiate each device on the internal network.

While each device connected to the network has its own private IP address to communicate with the router, remember that all devices simultaneously access the internet through the router as well. Thus, they all have the same public IP address.

Public IP addresses are further classified into two kinds – static and dynamic. These types describe a network’s permanency.

Dynamic IP vs. Static IP

A dynamic IP address is an IP address that often changes, while a static IP address does not change. ISPs and web hosting companies automatically assign dynamic IP addresses while they manually create static IP addresses.

Dynamic IP addresses are the most common type of IP address. They are only active for a certain amount of time, after which they expire. Once the computer disconnects from the network, it receives a new IP address or requests a new one.

Advantages of dynamic IP addresses include cost savings and security. ISPs buy multiple IP addresses and assign them to users. Automating the movement of IP addresses means there’s no need to get users their original IP addresses. Once a user is disconnected, ISPs can reassign a new IP address and give new users the old one to use.

Additionally, a changing IP makes it harder for criminals to hack into your network.

Individuals and businesses seldom use static IP addresses. Servers hosting large websites or providing email and FTP services use static IP addresses so other devices can easily find them on the web.

Website IP address

The website IP address is the other type of IP address besides the consumer IP.

If consumer IPs are assigned to devices connected to the internet, website IPs are used for web hosting packages. There are two types of website IPs: shared and dedicated.

We’ll be focusing on these two types, specifically dedicated IP addresses.

Dedicated IP address vs. Shared IP address

You can get a dedicated IP address and shared IP address from hosting providers, but the main difference is the number of users assigned to it.

Dedicated IPs are exclusive to a single account, while a shared IP is assigned to multiple users.

Shared IP addresses are often common to shared hosting accounts. This type of web hosting plan hosts multiple websites on the same server, making it possible for these domains to share an IP address.

But, while shared IP addresses are common in shared hosting plans, it is also possible to have a shared IP address without a shared server. For instance, some Managed WordPress hosting plans share IP addresses but not server resources.

Shared IP addresses are often dynamic IPs, while dedicated IP addresses are static. You have sole use over them once they’re assigned to you.

Important: Don’t confuse a dedicated IP address with a dedicated server; you can get a dedicated IP address without signing up for a dedicated hosting plan.

Benefits of a dedicated IP address

There are several benefits to having a single IP address dedicated to your use. It’s fast and secure, and there’s a smaller chance of your IP getting blacklisted.

Let’s explore each benefit in detail:

1. Secure remote access

A dedicated IP address allows employees to connect to company resources securely. It enables you to control access to specific resources and sensitive company assets. You can do this by allowing specific IP addresses and restricting access to servers and gateways you choose.

2. Reduced risk of IP blacklisting

Another benefit of a dedicated IP address is safety and location privacy. Some people prefer it when they can’t be traced.

While sharing an IP address is generally safe, it risks country-specific blocking of your website. Other websites on your server might perform illegal activities such as sending out spam emails, viruses, or malware that could get your websites blocked by search engines.

When you use a dedicated IP address for remote work or otherwise, there is zero chance of your IP getting blocked — unless you do something malicious intentionally.

3. Faster and safer file transfer

A dedicated IP ensures faster site speeds. You don’t have to contend with web traffic because you’re the only one using the IP address.

A dedicated IP also allows you to build a file transfer protocol (FTP) server to share files within an organization. A private FTP server offers better protection and a faster file transfer rate.

4. Improved email deliverability

You will benefit from a dedicated IP address if you send large volumes of emails; anything above 100,000+ per year is considered a large volume.

The main reason?

An IP’s reputation can impact your email delivery rate.

Email services such as Gmail and Yahoo trust emails from dedicated IPs more than those from shared IP addresses. They often double-check emails from shared IP addresses because spam emails are more likely to come from accounts hosted on those IPs.

5. Direct access to your website

Dedicated IP addresses allow you to access your website directly using the IP address since it’s the only domain mapped to that IP. For example, typing in “64.233.187.99” would lead you directly to Google because that is its dedicated IP address.

While it’s not the main advantage of having a dedicated IP, it is a handy perk when domain servers are down.

Dedicated IP address: A must-have for remote workers

Bottom line: Beef up your cybersecurity efforts with a dedicated IP address. It securely connects you to your remote server and improves site speed. That’s a win-win for remote workers and their employees and clients.

Need a dedicated IP address for remote work? Enjoy the benefits of dedicated IP by purchasing a GoDaddy dedicated IP as an add-on, or get one free by signing up for a GoDaddy dedicated hosting plan.



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3 Ways Marketers Can Earn — and Keep — Customer Trust

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A 2021 survey of 1,000 consumers concluded that more than 80% consider trust a deciding factor in their buying decisions, despite the fact that only 34% trust the brands they use. As trust in institutions diminishes, consumers are increasingly skeptical of where they put their money and receive their information. The author recommends three marketing strategies for brands to maintain and foster trust in their brands: 1) Do not overspin, 2) Avoid half-truths, and 3) Read the room and adjust.

It is no big secret that our world has a trust problem. Amid a global pandemic, economic crisis, and political instability set against a backdrop of deep cultural malaise, people no longer know where (or whom) to turn to for dependable information amid widespread disinformation and propaganda.

Similarly, government leaders, briefly seen as the most trusted institutions at the beginning of the pandemic per the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, squandered that goodwill when they could not halt the virus or restore economic stability. And per the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, trust in U.S. CEOs is at 47%, and credibility has basically hit rock bottom in Japan (18%) and France (22%) as consumers wake up to the indignities and absurdities of unfettered capitalism.

Yes, trust is in short supply, yet it remains a vital currency in sustainable customer relationships. A 2021 survey of 1,000 consumers concluded that more than 80% consider trust a deciding factor in their buying decisions, despite the fact that only 34% trust the brands they use. Consumers, of course, are not a monolith. And as it so happens, age is a key differentiator in understanding the intricacies of the public’s confidence in and perception of the news media, in particular.

Per a Gallup/Knight Foundation survey, older Americans tend to rely on maybe one or two sources for all their information, and they prioritize brand reputation and political slant when evaluating an outlet’s credibility. Conversely, younger adults (18- to 34-year-olds) are more likely to gather information from numerous sources and place more of a premium on how open that outlet is with its facts, research, and processes.

Younger consumers also view national news outlets with more skepticism, with just 29% saying they trust them compared to 41% of adults over 55. A credible media landscape is always critical, but with the line between marketing and media blurring each day, news organizations’ morale fiber can sometimes be linked to that of a brand.

To summarize, ​​older adults are more brand-conscious, while younger adults are more process-conscious. As marketing experts, we can apply these findings to our brand messaging to develop credibility with our intended audiences as they age and evolve. Here is how.

1. Do not overspin.

Though Edelman found that trust in CEOs hit an all-time low in 2021, the same study revealed that businesses are still considered more trustworthy than governments, NGOs, and the news media. With such power comes great responsibility. CEOs and other business leaders must address today’s most pressing challenges and focus on societal engagement with great fervor. According to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, 53% of respondents believe that business leaders have a duty to fill the information void left by the news media.

This is not the time for corporate platitudes. People are smarter than you think. If you attempt to fool them, they will find out — and the hit to your credibility will outweigh any short-term gains that you made.

Think back to summer 2020, when PR teams across industries jumped to distribute public denouncements of systemic racism. People were quick to call out the performative allyship of companies such as Glossier, whose public anti-racism pledge was at odds with former employees’ recounts of on-the-job discrimination and toxicity. So make sure you back up any announcements with actual steps. For example, Ben & Jerry’s is not one for empty promises, and its statement on racial injustice held a lot more weight because company leaders have a track record of on-the-ground activism.

Keeping your message free of excessive spin goes a long way with the public and protects you from potential PR gaffes down the line.

2. Avoid half-truths.

Pfizer has been in the news a lot this past year — mostly for good reasons. CEO Albert Bourla and his team cleared myriad hurdles to develop an innovative, effective Covid-19 vaccine in record time. But back in 2006, Pfizer was in the news for less-than-glowing reasons after launching a $258 million ad campaign for a cholesterol drug with Robert Jarvik, inventor of the first permanent artificial heart, as the face of it.

The tagline — “Just because I’m a doctor doesn’t mean I don’t worry about my cholesterol” — was catchy, but there was one problem: Jarvik was not licensed to practice medicine and, in fact, had never practiced medicine. The ads drew swift criticism that resulted in a congressional investigation and millions in monetary losses for Pfizer.

In the court of public opinion, omission is akin to lying. If a claim requires omission, then do not use it; and if you do make a mistake, own up to it. In fact, you may find consumers more forgiving if you show any semblance of contrition. Being vulnerable about where you have fallen short in the past suggests honesty, which sits at the foundation of consumer trust, brand affinity, and long-term engagement.

3. Read the room and adjust.

When was the last time you checked the pulse of your customer base? You should be continually evaluating the effectiveness of your marketing efforts by asking yourself these key questions:

  • What is our customer sentiment? Negative? Positive?
  • What are our favorability ratings? Are they rising? Dropping?
  • Is our audience engaging with our content?
  • And did we follow through on our promises?

By regularly checking whether consumers are picking up what you are putting down, you will find that you can more easily meet and even exceed their ever-evolving preferences. For example, Bryanna Evans, the social media manager at home fragrance brand SECC, told Buffer that her team’s social media-powered strategy focuses on in-feed customer engagement. Not only does the social team respond whenever someone leaves a comment, but it also nurtures consumer interest by regularly posting quizzes, contests, and giveaways. As a result, SECC has built an army of loyalists and grown its monthly revenue from $20,000-$30,000 to more than $100,000.

The fight for consumer trust is ongoing — and it will not be going away anytime soon. But savvy marketers can use authentic brand messaging to engender stronger customer relationships that stand the test of time. Implement these three steps to begin building a reputation as a reliable information source that people depend on.

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How to Improve Email Deliverability

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If you’re running a business, you need an email list. And you need to send great emails, obviously. But if those great emails aren’t making it to people’s inboxes, then what’s the point?

If you’ve been putting a lot of hard work into your email marketing but not seeing the results you want, then maybe your email deliverability could use some help. I’m going to share the four key factors that will help make sure more of your emails stay out of spam and land in the inbox.

And if you don’t have an email list yet, this will set you up for success right from the start!

The Four Pillars of Email Deliverability

When it comes to email, it’s all about deliverability. You can have the fanciest automations, the best copy, the best upsells, downsells, follow-ups… But if nobody’s getting those emails in their inbox, then it’s all for nothing.

This is where you’re up against the algorithms of the email giants that control more than 50 percent of the world’s inboxes: Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo!. You’ve got to understand what they’re looking for—and play by their rules.

The good news is that it’s not that difficult to stay on the good side of the algorithms. Anyone can avoid the spam folder as long as they follow a few key guidelines.

There are four main pillars of email deliverability, and they form the acronym RACE:

  • Reputation
  • Authentication
  • Content
  • Engagement

Pat and email deliverability expert Adrian Savage covered these four pillars in depth in SPI episode 498:

Reputation

In business, as in everything, reputation matters. If you’ve got a lousy reputation, no one’s going to want to listen to you.

When it comes to email marketing, you need to focus on what’s known as your sending reputation.

You see, the big mailbox providers are monitoring the emails you’re sending, and most importantly, how people are reacting to them.

The more they see people marking your emails as spam or ignoring or deleting them, the more they’re going to mark down your sending reputation. And they’re more likely to send your emails right to the spam folder.

That’s the simple version, but it means that everything you do with your email marketing has to be focused on preserving and improving your sending reputation.

How to Improve Your Sending Reputation

So what can you do to improve and maintain your reputation with the big email services?

First, use common sense. If you feel like you’re gaming the system, you probably are—and you’re eventually going to get found out.

A (not so) great example is downloading lists of email addresses from the internet.

The only legitimate way to get ahead now with your email list is to send emails only to people who have specifically asked you to contact them.

If you buy a list and start emailing people who haven’t given you permission, you’re much more likely to get spam complaints, which will hurt your sending reputation.

And what’s the only definition of spam that matters in the eyes of the mailbox providers? Whatever the recipient thinks it is.

There are also businesses out there, like Spamhaus and Cloudmark, that operate email addresses called spam traps. If you send an email to a spam trap address, then you may be added to blocklists that tell the world you’re a low-reputation sender.

The only definition of spam that matters? Whatever the recipient thinks it is.

If you do decide to buy a list of addresses for some reason, make sure you really trust the person providing the data—it’s much better to control it yourself.

Next, you’ll want to clean your email list regularly. That way, you’ll avoid hitting what’s called a recycled spam trap.

Here’s how that works.

Suppose 10 years ago you had a Hotmail address that you’d stopped using, and Microsoft canceled your account. For the next few months, if anyone tried to email you, they’d receive an error saying the mailbox didn’t exist. But a few months later, Microsoft might reopen that address and repurpose it to catch senders who weren’t looking after the hygiene of their email list.

Send enough emails to spam trap addresses, and you’ll end up on a blocklist.

So, only send emails to people who have said they want to hear from you, and keep your email list clean so you don’t get caught in recycled spam traps.

Authentication

Authentication is the second crucial piece of improving your email deliverability.

It’s all about telling the world that you’re sending legitimate emails.

You’ve probably received spam from someone spoofing an email address that isn’t theirs. It’s relatively easy to spoof an address you don’t own—what’s not so easy is to authenticate one.

Authentication is what sets you apart from the spammers, and there are two steps you need to take to authenticate your email address.

The good thing is, this is usually a one-time thing you do when you’re setting up your email platform.

The two authentication steps involve a couple of acronyms.

Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM)

The first one is domain keys identified mail, or DKIM. This is how you get your email platform to digitally sign every email that you send.

You’ll need to look at your platform to determine how exactly to configure DKIM, because they all do it slightly differently. If you’re stuck, then find someone who can help you, because it is probably the most important single thing that will make the difference between hitting the spam folder and hitting the inbox.

Here’s guidance on setting up DKIM with some of the most popular email service providers (ESPs):

Sender Policy Framework (SPF)

The second side of authentication is something called sender policy framework, or SPF.

SPF helps identify which mail servers are allowed to send email on behalf of your domain. This communicates which platforms you trust to send emails on your behalf, which can reduce the incidence of email spoofing—people pretending to send mail as you. Like DKIM, it’s a one-time thing, but crucial.

Doing those two things—setting up your SPF and DKIM settings—is going to make a huge difference in deliverability. And don’t be afraid to seek help if you need it.

Here’s guidance on setting up SPF with the popular ESPs:

Content

In the recent past, it was relatively easy to avoid the spam folder by being careful about the content in your emails: don’t use swear words, don’t mention Viagra, and don’t mention “free.”

Today’s spam filters are much more sophisticated, and the big email providers use a ton of artificial intelligence to figure out what’s junk and what’s legit.

In 2005, you might have gotten away with writing “free” as “fr.e–e” in an email, but today that’s a one-way ticket to the spam folder.

Making it to the inbox in 2022 is a lot more about being authentic with your email content. Here, another acronym comes in handy: WILF, which stands for:

  • Words
  • Images
  • Links
  • Frequency

Words

Words are important, obviously. And when it comes to email deliverability, it means writing emails the way you’d have a conversation with someone.

Write like yourself. The more your emails sound like they’ve been coming from you, the more authentic it sounds, the more likely those big sophisticated algorithms are going to recognize it as authentic.

In most cases, shorter is also better. Don’t cut it down at the expense of not getting your message across, but don’t waffle unnecessarily. Because, let’s face it, people’s attention spans are getting shorter.

At the same time, don’t stress too much about content either. There are no hard and fast rules here, and you don’t want to follow a rule at the risk of ruining your message.

You can always send a few test emails and see what happens. Just remember, however, that email has evolved, and no two people have exactly the same email experience anymore. The same email might end up in Spongebob’s inbox and Squidward’s spam folder.

But you can still learn some things by looking at the big picture of what you’re sending over time. If you notice that emails written a certain way are getting delivered more often than others, use that as a data point to guide how to craft your email content going forward.

Images and Links

Here’s where things get even more interesting. To include images or not include images in your emails? And what about links? One? None? Many?

First, remember that there are exceptions to every rule. But in general—and testing bears this out—the more images you’ve got in an email, the more likely it’s headed to the junk folder. And the same goes for the number of links.

One of the quickest ways for an email to be viewed as a promotion by Google is if it has a graphical banner at the top, because that makes it look like a promo. So just cut to the chase with your message.

If you need images in the middle of the email to reinforce or illustrate things, that’s a different story. But only include them if they’re going to actually add value, not just for the sake of it. If you can manage three or fewer images in total, perfect.

Here at SPI, most of our emails are pretty barebones: no (or few images), and just a single link.

It’s the same with links: the more you use, the more your email looks like a promotion. One of the biggest mistakes people make is using a bunch of little social media icons in their email signature. Before you know it, you’ve got five additional images with links in your email, you’re in the promotions tab.

When it comes to links, also be careful about linking to websites you don’t control. You can’t always be certain whether the domain you’re linking to has a good domain reputation or not. It’s much better to only link to content that you’re in control of—like the stuff on your own website.

Frequency

Finally, there’s frequency. The more frequently you send emails to the people who want to receive them, the better you’re going to do. In the good old days, it was sufficient to send an email newsletter out once a month, but these days, mailbox providers are looking for consistency and engagement (which we’ll talk about in a second).

The more frequently you send emails to the people that want to read them, the better it’s going to look for your engagement. If you’re sending out an email three times a week, then you’re a lot more likely to reach more of your audience more quickly than if you’re sending one email a month.

That doesn’t mean you need to send an email every day—if you can, then great, if you’ve got enough to talk about—but the more frequently you can share some really cool value, the more people are going to love you, and more importantly, the more the mailbox providers will love you as well.

Engagement

While authentication is something you set up once and pretty much forget, engagement is something you need to pay attention to on an ongoing basis.

By engagement we’re talking about, are people reading your emails? Are they opening them? Are they clicking the links? Are they actually reading them properly? Or are they just deleting it without reading?

One of the worst ways to hurt your engagement is when you send something out, it lands in the spam folder, and no one rescues it.

When someone signs up to your email list for the first time, that may be the only chance you’ve got to keep your emails out of their spam folder. So direct them to a thank-you page that instructs them to check the spam folder for your first email and move it to their inbox if need be. If they don’t, they may never see another email from you in their inbox again.

That’s the most important thing.

The other is maximizing the number of people engaging by improving your open rates. Here’s where it’s important to clean your email list regularly, so you’re only sending email to the people who are likely to read it.

It can be scary to clean your email list regularly—because it means deleting people from your list—but it’s absolutely a great thing to do for your email engagement, and for the health of your email list.

Why? It will show Google and Microsoft and Yahoo! that what you’re sending is of greater interest to your subscribers. The higher they see your open rate, the more likely they are to increase your domain reputation. The better your reputation, guess what? The next email you send is more likely to land in the inbox. It’s a virtuous cycle.

More Email Marketing Resources

If you’re just getting started building your email list, the best time to start thinking about and implementing these email deliverability best practices is now.

And if you’ve had a list for a while and things have gotten stagnant, the best time to start is… also now.

If you need more support with your email marketing, you’re in the right place! Here are a few more resources to help you build an audience and create more revenue with a robust email marketing practice:

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