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De-Coding the Secrets of Email Deliverability

As digital marketers, we have observed that sometimes, even the most innovative email marketing campaigns can be unsuccessful if the communication fails to reach the intended audience. That is, if deliverability is a problem. Using an email marketing platform (like Octane) ensures only that the emails are relayed from the service provider’s (ESP) server to the remote server (ISP) correctly. As far as performance and inbox deliverability are concerned, certain technical best practices also need be followed. For example:

  • Mailer design: Important pointers for creating effective mailers are:
    • Design the mailer in <table> and <td> tags.
    • Avoid using <div> or <span> tag.
    • Use a uniform font throughout the email; avoid too many variations in font size and style.
    • Avoid using red or green color for font as it projects that you are trying too hard to grab attention and can be interpreted as a spamming tactic.
    • The mailer should not be longer than two page-scrolls.
    • Never use external CSS in your mailers, but rather use inline CSS.
    • Don’t use too many capital letters or symbols, as it makes the text difficult to read.
    • Give correct properties to images, for example:  padding: 0; margin: 0; display: block inline; border: 0;
    • Do not use JavaScript in mailer design as many email clients don’t support it.
  • Setup SPF/DKIM: SPF/DKIM are the authentication parameters that need to be set up before starting the mailing activity. These parameters basically authenticate the ESP to send emails on behalf of  the clients, without being considered as a source of spam. These records are generated from ESP’s panel and entered as text records in the DNS of the domain to be used for mailing.
  • Setup MX records: Mail Exchanger records ensure that the sending domain has the capability to handle feedback, complaints and bounce reports. If you do not set up the MX records, your IPs are likely to be suspected of spamming.
  • Make use of tools like FBL, SNDS and JMRP: The Feedback Loop (FBL) is a service from Yahoo! that helps you identify email IDs that have marked your emails as spam. This helps you identify and put these addresses into your suppression list. The Smart Network Data Services (SNDS) gives you the reputation and behavior of your IPs on Hotmail. Another good tool is the Junk Email Reporting Program (JMRP) which helps to identify email IDs that have marked your emails as spam on Hotmail.
  • Follow a warm-up plan for the IPs: When you initially allot IPs, they are ‘fresh’, which means you can’t send large volumes of email without jeopardizing your reputation. The way out is a process known as ‘warming-up’, wherein you send small volumes of email initially and then gradually raise the number.
  • Never use a third-party purchased list: To maintain performance always ensure that you mail your campaign to the opt-in list only. Using a third-party list—about which you have no real idea—will only generate complaints and spam hits. This will decrease the reputation of your IPs and ultimately the performance of your campaign.
  • Using domain segmenting: It’s a good idea to have your email list segmented into different domains, perhaps for example, based on email providers. So if Gmail users are responding more to your campaigns than users from other domains, then you should segment the list to reduce the frequency for non-Gmail users.
  • Target the most active subscribers: Always focus your campaigns on the most active subscribers. They are the people who really look forward to your emails.
  • Do not use spam-like keywords: Words like ‘free’, ‘buy now’, ‘20% off’ etc. have been over-abused by spammers already.  Try to steer clear of them and stick to natural-sounding keywords.
  • Be consistent with mailing frequency: Don’t bombard the recipients with too many emails too often or reduce the mailing frequency all of a sudden. Work out an unobtrusive sending schedule and stick to it.
  • Maintain an updated suppression list: Keep your suppression list updated so that your campaigns do not reach those email IDs that have already unsubscribed, marked you as spam or resulted in bounce.
  • Keep monitoring campaign performance: Always test your campaigns before you actually begin sending.  Also, don’t get too hasty in judging a campaign. It is best to observe for at least 2-3 days to see how the campaign is performing before you start making changes to the content or subject line etc.
  • Keep your list clean and updated to avoid hard bounces: Hard bounces are bottlenecks for email performance. Try not to use a list which has invalid or dead email addresses.


All this goes on to show that the technological angle is as important as the marketing perspective. Marketers who want their campaigns to deliver solid results need to make sure they also do well on the above mentioned parameters. After all, email marketing is not only about sending out mailers; it also requires proper implementation and constant evaluation.


–       Team Octane

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