Getting Your Emails Delivered (almost) Every Time

You can spend all the time in the world building the perfect list or creating a solid outreach campaign, but if your emails don’t get delivered you’re dead in the water.  Even worse, sometimes you don’t even know that your emails aren’t getting to the inbox.  In this post, you’ll learn how to identify, fix, and prevent any issues with getting your emails delivered every time.

First Line of Defense Against Spam

  1. Go to MX Toolbox to check if you are on any blacklists
  2. GlockApps Spam Test to run your subject lines and email’s content through the app to ensure your emails get to the inbox of your subscribers.
  3. Get your Sender Score at Return Path.  A low score will hurt your deliverability

SPF DKIM BLackList Check

Content filters inspect text, domains, links, and images in your email to determine if your message should be sent through.  They also check the history of your domain as a sender including complaints, blacklists, email engagement.  If you have any black marks against you, and aren’t sending more than 50,000 emails a week, the best way to get back to good is to follow the Do’s and Don’ts laid out below.

Secondary Email Screening

If managing the reputation of your IP Address isn’t enough, Domains and URLs have their own reputations.  A domain blacklist (DBL), also called Uniform Resource Identier (URI) blacklist, looks at the each domain within the email and provides the recipient with an extra layer of protection.

Internet Service Providers (ISP) try to determine your identity and the legitimacy of your email.  At the very least, set up DKIM and SPF so the ISP can cross reference your information and feel more confident about letting your message through.

If you don’t have DKIM or SPF, set them up now!

  • DomainKey Identified Mail (DKIM)
    • DKIM associates a domain name to an email message to create a digital signature.
  • Sender Policy Framework (SPF)
    • Easy as adding a snippet of text in the DNS.  Ask your developer, it’s a 5 minute project.


Do This Now!

  • Be consistent! Send emails on a regular schedule, but don’t bombard the recipient.
  • Double Opt-Ins = sending a confirmation email to the new subscriber asking them to confirm their email.
  • Include a specific Call To Action (CTA).
  • Honor your unsubscribes.
  • Send re-engagement emails every 6 months (at least) and ask for feedback.
  • Ask your subscribers to white list you by adding your email to their address book.  In gmail, a ‘reply’ automatically adds you to their address book.  Alternatively, ask them to reply to you to get bonus content, like an ebook.
  • Create a subdomain and use it only for email activity.  The subdomain will allow for domain-specific monitoring of your IP reputation which can help you get around domain-based certification filters and avoid harming the deliverability of your tranactional emails.  Alternatively, use an alternate email domain like a .co or .net to separate marketing from sales emails.
  • Filter your email list by the origin of the email address.  Contests or promotions can spike your acquisition rates, but these folks could be just out to get something free, and are the least likely to engage with your over the long term.
  • Include branding in your ‘Name’ to add familiarity to the recipient when they see your message.  (Ryan from SellHack).
  • Follow the CAN–SPAM Act guidelines.
  • Check your grammar and spelling.  This is a components of your spam filter score.
  • Use the recipients first name.  It signals to the spam filter that you actually know the person.
  • If you are sending from an app that sends from your Gmail, be aware of sending restrictions and limits.  (you can tell a 3rd party is sending from Gmail when you see “sent on behalf of” or “sent via” in the email headers).
  • Use “plain text” but if you have to use HTML, make sure it looks and feels like your website.
  • Monitor bounces and have a process from removing them from future campaigns.
  • For new signups, send a welcome message and set expectations for what you will be sending and how often they should expect to hear from you.  Trade an early unsubscribe for a Spam Report in the future.

Don’t Do This

  • Don’t use spam trigger words in the subject or body.  These words are easily flagged by filters routing your message to the Spam folder.
  • Don’t send emails with a high image to text ration.  Even better, don’t include any images if you can avoid it.
  • Don’t use URL Shorteners.  If you want to track your links, hyperlink text and include custom UTM Parameters so you can track in analytics.
  • Don’t try to hid your unsubscribe links.
  • Don’t use ALL CAPS in your email or subject line.  Avoid overusing of weird characters.  Jury is out on emojis/glyphs but lots of folks doing it.
  • Don’t include attachments.  Rather, link to landing pages.
  • Don’t freak out over soft bounces.  Typically this is due to a technical issue you can’t control at the receiving mail server.
  • Don’t use the word ‘Dear’ or a generic salutation.
  • Hard Bounces are most often related to sending to email addresses that aren’t valid.  According to Oracle, “high hard bounce (invalid) rates are the fastest way to trigger filtering and blocking on your new IP.”

So, how do I avoid hard bounces?

Most experienced marketers know how important it is to sanitize their email lists.  People change jobs every few years and if you have been in business for a while chances are a lot of your subscribers are going to be lost.

Don’t let a large campaign with a high bounce rate affect your company’s email deliverability.  Sanitizing your lists is inexpensive and quick relative to the cost of impeded delivery or the time it will take to build up your sender score.

How to Sanitize Your Lists:

Whether you are an existing SellHack client or just finding us for the first time, cleaning your email list is easy.

  1. Export your list to a .CSVEmail Validation Results
  2. Make sure the column with email addresses is labeled Email
  3. Upload this file here and add your credit card
  4. Depending on the file size, you can expect to pay anywhere from $.02-$.01 per email validation
  5. You’ll receive and email from us with a link to download the original file appended with one of the following responses

This domain appears to be an accept-all domain – An Accept -All (catch-all) domain is configured by the receiving mail server to disallow SMTP email verification.  Therefore, we are unsure if the email is valid or invalid.  This response will be the same regardless which email validation service you use to sanitize your list.  Your call…DELETE or KEEP 50/50

Domain appears to be accept-all; verified pattern match – This domain is an Accept-All, but SellHack goes further than any other validator to provide a response ‘pattern match’ where we have a statistically relevant number of VERIFIED emails at this domain which all follow the same pattern.  A valid email, send away.

Domain does not accept emails – These are typically associated with Temporary/Disposable email addresses or someone who didn’t want to be added to your list and entered a bogus email to get access to your content that was gated with an email address.  DELETE this email from your database.

Email address is role based – Someone signed up with an email alias like support@, sales@, info@ etc.  Your call…DELETE or KEEP

Provided email format is invalid – Most likely your email capture form was not configured correctly and allowed the subscriber to enter incorrect/partial information often forgetting the ‘@’ or ‘.com’.  DELETE this email from your database.

This email address is invalid (hard bounce) – This email address is not valid and will bounce if you send to it.  DELETE this email from your database, and use SellHack to go find where the person is working now.

This email address is valid – Yay!  A valid email, send away.

Validity of this email could not be determined – We could not verify the email address and this is often attributed to a ‘soft bounce’ or a technical timeout with the receiving mail server.  Your call…DELETE or KEEP

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