Bring Deliverability and Design Together to Maximize Email Marketing Success

January 28, 2009 — Tips for getting your permission-based marketing emails into the inbox and the actual design of the email are closely linked. Here you will find useful information on getting into the inbox, email design tips, and the nexus between the two.

If you are just getting back into email marketing after a break, are new to it, or are sending to an old list, make sure to ramp up your sending. This does not take long. If you have a large list, do not send to your whole list all at once but ramp up incrementally to maximize email marketing deliverability.

It is very important to keep a clean list. Too many hard bounces (email addresses that do not exist any more) can hurt your reputation with the ISPs. Pay close attention to keeping a clean list and purge as many bad addresses off the list as you can before you even send through a new Email Service Provider (ESP). You want to get off on the right foot with good delivery.

Keep in mind that the worst thing you can do to build your email list is to harvest emails off of Web sites, as this a flagrant violation of the CAN-SPAM act.

In addition, do not buy a list from some guy on the Internet who promises you the subscribers have all opted-in. They may have opted-in to hear from someone, but not from you. For you, they are likely to hit the spam complaint button along with the many others to whom this guy has sold the list. Sending to this sort of list will hurt your ability to reach your best customers or prospects.

No matter which ESP you choose, they will assign you an IP address – either shared or private. This IP address, not your email address, is the “Caller ID” of every email that goes out, whether a personal message or email marketing. Make sure you setup a Sender Policy Framework (SPF) record that matches the IP your ESP assigned you with the sending domain (yourcompany.com). If you do this, you will be in the elite of email marketers who are following this optimal practice and will have an advantage. If you need help, ask your ESP. If you are a techie or know one, setting up an SPF record in your Domain Name Service (DNS) records does not take long. With many ESPs, you can determine the IP (shared or private) by looking in the settings of the account; with some ESPs you may have to ask them what IP address your emails are coming from.

Here are some additional tips on getting your emails through the spam filters.

Email Marketing Design: The Coin of The Realm

Good email design is not only more appealing to recipients and better for click throughs, but it also makes the spam filters look more kindly on your emails. This matters greatly when it comes to reaching the inbox, but do not forget that people like well designed emails better than something that is hard on the eyes. Your success with achieving your email marketing goals — including click-through-rates (CTR) and conversions — will be greatly enhanced by aesthetically pleasing email design.

One of the top guidelines for email marketing design is not to send out an email that is too heavy graphics or, much worse, one giant graphic. The guiding principle is 60 percent text, 40 percent graphic. Many email recipients view emails in a preview pane, so the top left corner is an ideal location for brand placement and a good enticing lead. Also, keep in mind that many email clients have graphics turned off by default so you have to entice people to click the button that turns graphics back on. The best way to do that is to leverage strong content, a well-designed email, and a good balance between text and graphics. It is always a very bad idea to send out an email that is one large graphic because not only will it lessen the chances that people will read it, but also because spam filters hate one large graphic emails.

It is crucial to remember to include ALT text for any images you include in your emails. The reason is that anything you are trying to communicate through images will be lost until many users turn on the graphics, which usually can be accomplished with a quick click. Entice them with descriptive ALT text that describes the graphic. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then give your recipients a reason to view those images.

Tables are back – which may seem counterintuitive to those of you who have been involved in a Web design project. Tables are an important element of email marketing design. You can use CSS but it must be inline CSS if you want it to work. Consider tables in your email design and play close attention to using table attributes.

Be aware of the inherent limitations of email programs as compared to Web browsers. Consider that the optimal email width is recommended at 600 pixels wide to accommodate for various browsers and mobile devices. Try to hit this range to avoid wide and unwieldy emails that few will want to read through. You probably want to avoid very long emails as well.

Again, keep in mind that while Web browsers are developed to handle javascript, flash, etc., many emails programs simply cannot handle the fancy stuff.

In addition, make sure to have a link in your email that enables your recipients to view the email as a Web page. Most ESPs provide a very easy way to accomplish this task. Some people will just prefer to view your email as a Web page.

If you combine good design for email with an awareness of both the spam filters and an aesthetically pleasing email for your audience, then you have a recipe for success. Email marketing can be hard work but when done well it yields the highest ROI of any other marketing tactic, which, according to the Direct Marketing Association is nearly $57 for every dollar invested.

Neil Anuskiewicz is the Director of Business Development for EZ Publishing. EZ Publishing offers permission-based email marketing via StreamSend, a leading provider of easy, affordable and dependable email marketing software for creating, sending and tracking email newsletter & other campaigns.

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