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Getting your emails to the inbox

Looking for a few technical but practical tips to get your emails to the inbox and keep them there? Today's insights from a close friend of Email Expert Africa might be just what you're looking for.

Black iPhone with the word "inbox" on the screen laying on a white surface

Why getting your emails to the inbox matters in 2024

With email inbox providers adding layers of technical requirements that email senders need to adhere to get to the inbox, you might be wondering what steps you can take to prioritise this for your email environment.

The good news is that it doesn't have to be difficult! It does, however, need to be a priority.

Today's insights are brought to you by our close friend, Greg Phillips, who heads up the leading email platform, TouchBasePro.

Greg has over 20 years of experience in the email game and today he's sharing a few technical insights on reaching the inbox, along with answering questions about dedicated IPs for your email sending.

Read on to see what Greg has to say about getting your emails to the inbox and keeping them there using sound technical principles and tools.

3 aspects to keep you out of junk and in the inbox

If your emails are landing in the junk folder or even worse, not even getting into the subscriber’s mailbox, all your efforts to improve your email conversions might be in vain.

As soon as this happens, the concept of deliverability comes to light. And to be honest, this is a bit of a dark art.

Larger email providers like Office 365, Gmail and Yahoo don’t give much information away as to why an email hits the junk folder.

This is where deliverability comes into play.

Deliverability, however, has a few hurdles to get through. 

The goal today is to tackle each of these with some practical tips on solving deliverability problems together.

The 3 fundamentals of email deliverability in an infographic

Aspect 1 - The Technical Specifications

Email marketing is a deep rabbit hole of knowledge and settings.

With email being the oldest form of communication (on the internet), it makes sense that a lot of technology has been built around it to help prevent spam and phishing attacks.  

Luckily, there are some tools out there that will check your email for you and tell you if there are any problems, like these favourites: 

The way this works is pretty simple – If you go to one of these sites, you will be given a temporary email address.

Simply send over a test message to the provided email address from within your Email Service Provider (ESP) platform and head back to the email testing website to view the report.

You can then fix your email or sending environment as needed. 

Aspect 2 - The Connection

This is the one with the most impact on getting to the inbox.

Think of this as your historic footprint of how your emails have been received. 

Your sending will either be on a shared IP range, or you will have your own IP (more on this later).

If you are on a shared range, then this problem needs to be escalated to your ESP.

The ESP has probably produced some bad traffic emanating from their shared IPs which needs sorting out. 

If you have your own IPs, awesome! This pretty much means you are in charge of your reputation.  

If you have just started sending on these IPs, then you need to check if they are “warmed“ before you start sending.

This is crucial, especially if you have a large audience or a high frequency of email sending.

If these IPs have not warmed, then your emails will most likely be blocked or bounced. Ask your ESP to help you with this.

Lastly, you may have been sending for a while and you have your own IPs, but you are still landing in the junk folder.

What now?

To begin checking and rectifying this, get your IP addresses from your ESP and then head over to this site and check your score: Sender Score 

You generally want your score to be in the high 90s.

If this is low, then you potentially have a reputation problem. This means that you will need to do some list management tasks as well as engagement tasks with your list and sending.

(PS - The TouchBasePro team do a lot for clients in this regard, so if you're stuck, they'd love to help you).

A person with only their hands in view typing on a laptop with their iPhone next to them on a wood desk

These lists are managed by companies that identify spammers and then list their servers. The way they identify a spammer is through complaints and spam traps.  

Head over to this page and enter your IP to see if you are blacklisted in any way: Free Blacklist Monitor | Blacklist Check – HetrixTools 

If you are listed on a blacklist, you can request delisting through various links and you will be shown which link to use inside HetrixTools. 

Not all blacklists are equal though.

Some of them do not have any effect on your deliverability and some have a major impact.

The best bet is to avoid all of them to be safe. 

Aspect 3 - Track Record

There is a rolling window in which the behaviour towards your emails is recorded.

This can be done on a group level, so all the emails you send to Gmail/ Yahoo/ O365, or it can be done on a user level.  

Getting your audience to open, click or reply to your email campaigns is a critical task.  

But if you are stuck right now, you can do a simple thing to jump-start the engagement. Before we discuss this, let’s first sort out your policies and procedures.  

Make sure you don’t have spam traps (TouchBasePro have a validation tool to help you with this too).

Make sure you don’t have unengaged or “Zombie” email accounts.

Declutter and cull. It really helps.  

Produce an incentive to get people clicking and replying to your emails.

Create a competition, ask a few questions or use something that draws attention.

Get your creativity flowing.  Especially with audience members who are ghosting you, there's not much to lose, unless they stay disengaged.

Once you have a good incentive for people to engage with you, segment out all the engaged members of your database. Once you have your engaged audience, send the incentive email to entice engagement again. 

If possible, wait a while before sending this again. 

On your next send, bring in a small percentage of your newly disengaged audience. Continue this process by including more and more of your disengaged audience members before sending again. 

Getting to the inbox requires consistent monitoring as well. Just because you are getting into Gmail inboxes, does not necessarily mean you're getting into Office 365, Apple Mail or Yahoo. 

Phone background with the mail logo and a notification in view

Is a dedicated IP right for you?

In the world of getting an email to the inbox, the IP address is a key player.

But it’s not the IP itself, rather it’s the historical sending reputation linked to a specific IP.  

Large email players like Google, Office 365 and Yahoo all have their own ways of monitoring the mail that comes from a specific IP address.

Some of the actions they monitor are:  

  1. Does the email get opened? 

  2. Does the email get quickly deleted? 

  3. Does an unsubscribe happen? 

  4. Does the recipient click on a link? 

  5. Does the recipient click the “spam” button in their email system? 

  6. Is the IP listed on any reputable spam blacklist monitoring services (EG: SpamHaus)

And there are also many finer, more detailed and nuanced interactions.  

Based on the behaviours exhibited by your recipients, the email provider can take a very educated guess as to how much people want to get your mail, contributing to such a reputation.  

The reputation of your IP also determines how quickly you can deliver email to the email provider.

If you have many Gmail recipients, it’s important to know your email will get to the recipient at the correct time, and having a poor reputation might delay the delivery of your emails. 

When deciding on going with a dedicated IP address versus a shared IP pool that your ESP provides, the bottom line will come down to reputation: do you want to share, or manage on your own?

Let us help you decide.

The pros of a dedicated IP

When considering a dedicated IP, here are a few pros:

  • You are on your own and managing your own reputation. If you have a fully opted-in database and the recipients engage with your email, then you are in a good space to manage it on your own. 

  • When using shared IPs, you share the reputation of all the other customers using the shared IP. Having your own IP eliminates the risks from other senders.  

  • You can build up and maintain your reputation. 

  • Lower costs as ESPs generally don’t charge for using their shared IP set. 

There are, however, also downsides.

The cons of a dedicated IP

On the other hand, when considering a dedicated IP, here are a few cons:

  • When getting started with a dedicated IP, it might take some time to “warm” it up. This means that getting to the inbox might not happen. Your ESP should ideally give you a warm IP to start with.

  • The speed of delivery will be slow at first and improve as your reputation improves.

  • The impact of spam traps or complaints from your lists is higher. If you have a subscribe form out there that’s not double opt-in or protected by Re-captcha, you run the risk of someone putting a spam trap into your database. 

  • Generally, with shared IPs, the ESP will manage blacklistings and reputation, when it comes to having your own IP, then you would need to manage your own delisting on public blacklisting services.

  • It usually comes at a fee to have your own dedicated IP.

You'll need to do some assessment of your email strategy and processes and decide based on facts what your best option is to try.

You can always adapt as time goes on, but your email metrics are your largest source of insight.

Invest time in monitoring this - You'll thank us later

Click this image to email Greg now

If you're getting stuck with getting to the inbox, you can reach out to Greg or the team at TouchBasePro here

Before you go, click here to grab a copy of our detailed Database Growth Playbook for Email Marketing to help you grow your database further and support your efforts 👇

Preview of The Ultimate Database Growth Guide for Email Marketing by Email Expert Africa

Want more tips like these? Get our expert email guide today! Click here to find out more

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