For many marketing professionals, email is key for reaching target audiences, but the big challenge is avoiding the spam box. More than 144 billion emails were sent worldwide in 2012, according to Mashable, but a whopping 65% of these were classified as spam. As mailbox providers get better and better at diverting spam away from the inbox, marketers must ensure that their emails are classed as relevant.

For most businesses, emails are vital for revenue, which means that the impact of undelivered email on a company’s bottom line can be significant. According to our recent SendGrid survey, 80.5% rely on email for signups and subscriptions, which are the life blood of many businesses. For this reason, it is essential to pay attention to the way in which email is sent to ensure the success of a campaign.

The best way to improve email delivery is through better engagement, and there are several ways to measure this. Firstly, look at the open rate of your campaign, which is the number of people who read your email. Be aware that this metric can be misleading, though, as a recipient is only counted if they download the images included in the message. Many users have image downloads automatically turned off meaning that, despite viewing the message, they will not be counted.

Secondly, engagement can be measured by clicks. This means you count the number of subscribers who clicked on one or more of the links in your message. Clicking shows an element of active participation in the email’s content, so if the click rate is high, it is likely that the content is considered valuable.

It’s also worth measuring recent interaction. Interaction means the number of users that have interacted with the email in some way within a specific period of time, which, again, demonstrates the value of your content.

When analysing email, it’s also helpful to review your “this is not spam” (TiNs) data to see how many users have actively clicked the button saying “this is not spam”. From this, it is possible to identify users that actively wish to discontinue receiving your email, and those that are happy to receive it.

Finally, saving to folders is a useful measure of engagement. Retaining email by moving it from the inbox to another primary folder is a sign that the email’s content was relevant and wanted. Conversely, mass deleting or a user taking no action is a sign of negative engagement.

There are several steps that can be taken to improve engagement in an email campaign. Firstly, avoid sending email from a address. Letting customers reply directly to your email is a key factor in stimulating a two-way conversation with your user. It is best to send campaigns from an email address that can be regularly monitored for responses, as this will incentivise users to interact with your email address. One way to do this could be to offer users a 15% discount if they reply to your email then, when they respond, an automatic message can be sent with a discount code.

Secondly, refrain from buying email lists from third parties to increase the reach of your campaign. These lists often contain many bad email addresses, which yield high complaint rates. Instead, marketing professionals are encouraged to grow their own lists organically, which will ensure that campaigns are targeted. Sending even one email into a spam trap can impact domain reputation, and it’s not worth the risk.

Finally, in terms of formatting email, don’t hide the “unsubscribe” button and ensure that it’s easy for recipients to remove themselves from the list. It’s better for users to opt-out than to erroneously report an email as spam. In addition, always sign email to personalise it and make it clear that the content is not automatically generated.

Marketing email is an effective way to generate new business and improve a company’s bottom line, but it’s important to follow best practice to ensure that email marketing campaigns reach the necessary people and have the right effect. Send the right email at the right time to the right person at the right frequency. Focus on quality over quantity, and only send relevant content. Listen to customers by monitoring engagement and react to any negative engagement to improve your reputation.


By Aaron Beach, Senior Data Scientist at SendGrid

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