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5 Simple Steps You Can Take Right Now to Improve Your Email Deliverability
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Chinie Hidalgo Diaz
Chinie Hidalgo Diaz is a certified Email Marketing professional and a member of the eMarketing Association, the Email Experience Council, and the Email Marketers Club.   Aside from publishing the CD Email Solutions ezine, she also maintains the Philippine Emarketer's Journal.    
 
By Chinie Hidalgo Diaz
Published on 03/23/2008
 
Just discovered that you've been spamming? Here's a list of 5 things you can do - right this minute - to get started on the road to improving your email situation. 

In case my last article (Are You a Spammer?) depressed you, here's a list of 5 things you can do - right this minute - to get started on the road to improving your email situation: 

  1. If you haven't done so yet, set up and publish an SPF (Sender Policy Framework) Record for your domain. (Not sure if your domain has an SPF record? Check here.) You can find more information (and a free tool for creating your SPF record) at http://www.openspf.org, but in extremely simple terms an SPF record basically tells the receiving internet service provider that the email you are sending is really from you. If your email fails an SPF test, your email MIGHT still be delivered, but this raises your SpamAssassin rating unnecessarily. (Ideally you want to aim for a score of 2 to ensure delivery.)
  2. Publish (and adhere to!) a Privacy Policy, and set up "abuse@" and "postmaster@" email addresses for your domain to handle spam complaints. I'll have to tackle the privacy Policy in more detail in another post, but the abuse and postmaster addresses are recommended by Internet standards set by the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force). Some MTA's (message transfer agents) do a ping back on the postmaster@ address, and if it doesn't exist they will put the email(s) in quarantine or bounce, or drop the email, and some will just send an entry to the blacklists (very bad news).
  3. Check your current email reputation. Are you on a blacklist? Is your email not getting through because of spam complaints? Is your SpamAssassin rating off the charts? You really need to find out!!! There are several ways to check your email reputation, including Habeas.com's free rep check, but I personally use the Delivery Audit by Email Reach. You can register for a free trial, but if you're serious about your email marketing, I recommend you sign up for a paid subscription ($49.95 per month, cheaper if you get a longer subscription) --- as it really is the most incredibly useful tool I have ever come across. Basically you send an email to their 23 test email addresses, and they will test and score your email's deliverability based on reputation, content, which inboxes it landed in, and whitelist status. For each "failure" it provides recommendations to improve delivery. Pretty amazing, though I'm warning you ... some days it will make you want to cry. :)
  4. Add an unsubscribe mechanism to your emails. It always amazes me how people (and I'm talking big name companies here!) neglect to do this. You need to give your recipients a way out of receiving your email.. (1) because they may actually not want to receive it (have you ever considered that?) and (2) .. if they don't have a way to unsubscribe they are likely just to report it as spam.. and believe me, you do NOT want that. Your unsubscribe mechanism can as simple as a note to "reply to this email with "STOP" as the subject line" - though a one-click unsubscribe (i.e. an unsubscribe link) is always better. More on this when I discuss email service providers and email sending software.
  5. Last, but definitely not least, make your email content relevant to the people you are sending it to. This is perhaps the most valuable learning I took home from this year's Email Summit. While you may think your company, promo, service etc is the best thing since sliced bread - others may disagree. Live with it. Move on. Organize your email lists, and send specific offers only to those who might actually benefit from them. Stop flooding the inboxes of your friends and relatives, and for god's sake, please do not send email to people you don't even know! Once again, details on email relevancy will have to be tackled in future posts (too much to cover here), so just be patient.
Well that's it for today. What are you waiting for? GO! Get cracking!