Email Best Practices

After handling email servers for countless clients, dealing with everything from sending to receiving emails, we’ve picked up a bunch of useful tips and tricks along the way. In this part of our chat, we won’t be focusing on what your emails should say. Instead, we’re diving into the nuts and bolts of email – the behind-the-scenes stuff that makes everything tick. We’re here to shed some light on the dos and don’ts of sending emails, offering you insights to help fix any email delivery issues you might be facing.

We really hope you find these tips handy as you navigate your email adventures. And remember, if you’ve got any questions or if anything’s unclear, the RISE Marketing team is just a message away. We’re here to help, always.

Reputation

Reputation is crucial, especially when it comes to email. Without a solid reputation for your domain and IP address, your emails might end up being marked as spam, never seeing the light of day in your recipients’ inboxes. Think of your email reputation like a credit score for your digital communications. Both a bad reputation and no reputation can harm your email deliverability. Email Service Providers (ESPs) might not recognize you and could filter your emails as spam. Given the vast amounts of spam floating around, it’s hard to fault them for being cautious.

A staggering 90% of all emails are considered spam, according to MAAWG, making spam a significant issue for email users and providers alike. Providers like Gmail, AOL, Yahoo, and Outlook/Hotmail are constantly fighting spam to keep our inboxes clean. This battle underscores the importance of a pristine email reputation to avoid falling prey to spam filters.

At RISE Marketing, we’re dedicated to ensuring your email setup is primed for success, with all the technical groundwork in place to keep your emails out of the spam folder. We check the reputation of our IPs before assigning them and adhere to the authentication requirements of major ESPs.

Moreover, we equip you with the tools to answer critical questions about your email performance:

  • Are your emails being delivered, and if not, why?
  • Is an ESP throttling your emails, and what’s the reason?
  • Are there issues with bounced emails due to wrong domains or outdated addresses?
  • Are people unsubscribing or marking your emails as spam?
  • How are recipients interacting with your emails – are they opening and clicking through?

Using this data helps you align with ESP guidelines and tweak your email strategies to maintain a positive standing.

While we provide the tools for a good sending reputation, the onus is on you to use email wisely. However, by adhering to a few key practices and properly authenticating your emails, you can establish and maintain a strong email sending reputation:

  1. Only email individuals who have opted in to receive communications from your site, app, or service, and always use a double opt-in method to verify their email addresses.
  2. Monitor your email performance closely, adjusting your approach based on feedback from ESPs and recipients, like not emailing those who’ve unsubscribed or reported your emails as spam.

We’re here to support you on your email journey, ready to assist if you have any questions or need further guidance.

Reputation is crucial, especially when it comes to email. Without a solid reputation for your domain and IP address, your emails might end up being marked as spam, never seeing the light of day in your recipients’ inboxes. Think of your email reputation like a credit score for your digital communications. Both a bad reputation and no reputation can harm your email deliverability. Email Service Providers (ESPs) might not recognize you and could filter your emails as spam. Given the vast amounts of spam floating around, it’s hard to fault them for being cautious.

A staggering 90% of all emails are considered spam, according to MAAWG, making spam a significant issue for email users and providers alike. Providers like Gmail, AOL, Yahoo, and Outlook/Hotmail are constantly fighting spam to keep our inboxes clean. This battle underscores the importance of a pristine email reputation to avoid falling prey to spam filters.

At RISE Marketing, we’re dedicated to ensuring your email setup is primed for success, with all the technical groundwork in place to keep your emails out of the spam folder. We check the reputation of our IPs before assigning them and adhere to the authentication requirements of major ESPs.

Moreover, we equip you with the tools to answer critical questions about your email performance:

  • Are your emails being delivered, and if not, why?
  • Is an ESP throttling your emails, and what’s the reason?
  • Are there issues with bounced emails due to wrong domains or outdated addresses?
  • Are people unsubscribing or marking your emails as spam?
  • How are recipients interacting with your emails – are they opening and clicking through?

Using this data helps you align with ESP guidelines and tweak your email strategies to maintain a positive standing.

While we provide the tools for a good sending reputation, the onus is on you to use email wisely. However, by adhering to a few key practices and properly authenticating your emails, you can establish and maintain a strong email sending reputation:

  1. Only email individuals who have opted in to receive communications from your site, app, or service, and always use a double opt-in method to verify their email addresses.
  2. Monitor your email performance closely, adjusting your approach based on feedback from ESPs and recipients, like not emailing those who’ve unsubscribed or reported your emails as spam.

We’re here to support you on your email journey, ready to assist if you have any questions or need further guidance.

Hosting

RISE Marketing primarily operates on dedicated servers but incorporates cloud servers into our infrastructure when it’s advantageous.

We allocate dedicated IP addresses within expansive subnet ranges, ensuring each IP undergoes thorough vetting and rigorous testing. This approach minimizes the risk of collateral damage from nearby IPs with negative reputations, as ESPs and blacklist authorities sometimes block entire subnets due to a few suspicious IPs. The use of large, contiguous subnet blocks helps in reducing the likelihood of our clean IPs being unfairly penalized.

However, it’s important to note that large-scale virtual cloud setups are not always ideal for email hosting. Here’s why:

  • Having a static IP address is crucial for building a unified reputation for your domains and IP addresses. This consistency is key, especially since some stricter ESPs might necessitate whitelisting of your IP addresses, which are typically IPv4.
  • The reputation of your IP and those in its vicinity matters greatly. In vast cloud environments, maintaining a stellar reputation is challenging due to the ease of access and less stringent monitoring, making them attractive to spammers.
  • For optimal performance, Mail Transfer Agents (MTAs) are best hosted on physical servers rather than virtual ones, as this setup allows for improved I/O optimization.

This strategic infrastructure setup ensures that RISE Marketing’s email delivery system is robust, reliable, and resilient against the common pitfalls associated with email hosting and delivery.

IP Addresses and Sending Volume

RISE Marketing provides a range of IP address options, catering to various needs with both shared and dedicated IPs. We diligently oversee the activity on these IPs to ensure your email reputation remains untarnished, even when you’re on a shared IP. For those with substantial email needs, we offer IP pools specifically designed for high volume senders. Moreover, our sophisticated queuing algorithms are in place to smoothly transition your IPs into operation, gradually increasing sending limits as your IP’s reputation builds. To simplify management and efficiency, we allocate distinct sending queues for each domain you operate with us, thereby reducing the necessity for numerous IPs for varied email traffic types.

For businesses dispatching significant volumes of email (over 50,000 weekly), securing a dedicated IP is advisable to safeguard your reputation independently. Shared IPs involve a collective reputation, which can be a double-edged sword, dependent on the practices of others sharing the IP. High volume senders might face ESP-imposed rate limitations tied to the shared IP’s perceived reputation. Balancing your send volume is essential; too little can be as detrimental as sporadic spikes, which may be misconstrued as spam by ESPs. For those sending under 5,000 emails daily, a shared IP generally suffices, offering a blend of efficiency and reliability.

Separating IPs for bulk and transactional emails can be a strategic move for high-volume senders. This segregation ensures that urgent transactional messages aren’t delayed by bulk email campaigns and that the reputation impact from bulk sends doesn’t negatively influence your transactional mail’s deliverability.

Key to establishing a solid reputation with a new IP is the warm-up process—starting with a low send rate and incrementally increasing as you garner positive feedback from ESPs. Rushing this process by sending too many emails too quickly can lead to them being filtered or outright dropped, sometimes without notification.

DNS

Your email’s reputation hinges not just on your IP address, but on your domain name as well. When organizing your email infrastructure, it’s crucial to remember this. For these reasons, employing separate domains or subdomains for your marketing, transactional, and corporate emails is a strategic move. We recommend using your primary domain for corporate communications and setting up distinct domains or subdomains for marketing and transactional emails.

Although it’s not mandatory to match the domain in the email’s “From” field with the sending domain, doing so is strongly advised. Services like Outlook/Hotmail are particularly strict about this match, and failing to comply could lead to your emails being funneled into the junk folder.

It’s also important to choose a reputable DNS provider and to ensure your contact information is fully visible in the WHOIS database. Shielding your details behind a proxy service can be interpreted by Email Service Providers (ESPs) as a potential spam indicator.

Moreover, don’t forget to incorporate essential DNS records for authentication purposes. While it’s not compulsory for MX records to align with your sending domain, it’s beneficial. Some email providers, though in the minority, do verify the validity of MX records for a domain before accepting emails from it.

RISE Marketing simplifies the process of managing multiple domains or subdomains, allowing you the flexibility to create separate entities for each type of email you’re sending. This organization ensures that transactional messages are processed independently, preventing any delays caused by bulk email campaigns.

Mailing Lists

The top reason we observe for people getting their emails blocked is poor list quality, specifically using lists filled with unengaged or non-consenting recipients. You must ensure that you’re only sending emails to individuals who have explicitly opted to receive them through your own website. Furthermore, adopting a double opt-in process—where a verification email with a confirmation link is sent—is crucial. This not only verifies the accuracy of the email address but also confirms the identity of the person subscribing.

Having your Privacy Policy easily accessible on your website is essential, as is providing a straightforward method for users to opt out of your mailings. This includes having an unsubscribe option on your website and a link in every email you send.

While it’s your responsibility to curate and maintain your mailing list, RISE Marketing offers tools and data to help you understand how your emails are being received. We provide insights into email bounces, unsubscribes, complaints, opens, and clicks, enabling you to fine-tune your mailing lists for better performance. We also automate much of the process by tracking recipients who have unsubscribed, bounced, or lodged complaints, and we prevent further emails from being sent to them. Our system allows for varying levels of unsubscribe options, giving your recipients the choice to opt out from all emails from the domain, specific mailing lists, or emails tagged with specific keywords you set.

A crucial piece of advice: Avoid purchasing email lists or scraping websites for email addresses. Such practices not only harm your email deliverability and reputation but also violate the principles of consent and privacy.

Bounce and ESP Feedback Handling

Properly handling bounce notifications and ESP (Email Service Provider) feedback is crucial in preserving your email reputation. While the majority of significant ESPs deliver bounce responses instantly during the SMTP transaction, a few may communicate bounces through email. For these instances, it’s essential to include a specific return path header in your emails, guiding recipients on where to send bounce information.

It’s equally important to process and respond to this bounce information. Moreover, you may encounter soft bounces initially from many ESPs, a practice often referred to as grey-listing or throttling. Persistently sending emails to invalid addresses or ignoring ESP feedback can lead to your emails being filtered out or outright dropped.

RISE Marketing has automated the process of managing bounce data, adapting our sending practices based on this feedback to help you sustain a solid email reputation. Our system is engineered to intelligently parse and act on this feedback, ensuring your email sending strategy remains effective and compliant with best practices.

Upon receiving a hard bounce, our system immediately ceases any future emails to the affected address to prevent repeated delivery attempts. Similarly, after encountering multiple soft bounces, we will discontinue sending to the respective address, adhering to the specific guidelines set by ESPs. Should you believe a blockage was made in error or is a temporary issue, addresses can be reactivated either through your Control Panel or via our API, allowing for flexibility and control over your mailing list management.

Feedback Loops and Spam Complaints

Most major Email Service Providers (ESPs), excluding Gmail, offer feedback loops, providing essential insights into spam complaints about your emails. It’s critical to enroll in these feedback loops and closely monitor the feedback received. Disregarding this feedback can lead to ESPs limiting your email delivery capabilities, and in severe cases, result in a complete block.

RISE Marketing proactively enrolls all of our IP addresses in these feedback loops to ensure we’re immediately aware of any spam complaints. This information is readily available to you through our Control Panel, API, or Webhooks. Moreover, we automatically process spam complaints and cease sending emails to addresses that have lodged a complaint. Should there be a need to revisit and potentially remove addresses from the blocked list, this can be done easily via your Control Panel or through our API, providing you with control and flexibility in managing your email communications effectively.

Unsubscribe Handling

Ensuring that your recipients can easily unsubscribe from your emails is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, it’s a legal requirement under the CAN-SPAM Act. Secondly, without an easy way to opt out, recipients are more likely to mark your emails as spam, which is far more damaging to your reputation than if they simply unsubscribe. Lastly, many Email Service Providers (ESPs) scan for the presence of unsubscribe links in emails and may filter your emails as spam if such links are absent.

RISE Marketing enables you to seamlessly integrate an unsubscribe link or email address into your emails. This feature can be tailored to specific campaigns, mailing lists, or applied globally across your domain, offering you flexibility in how you manage email preferences. This functionality is accessible via the Control Panel, API, or Webhooks. Furthermore, we automatically cease sending emails to addresses once they’ve unsubscribed, ensuring compliance with user preferences and legal standards. Should the need arise to reevaluate and potentially remove addresses from the unsubscribe list, this can be managed directly through your Control Panel or our API, giving you full control over your email engagement strategy.

Recipient Engagement

Ensuring that your recipients are actively engaging with your emails is crucial for maintaining a good reputation with Email Service Providers (ESPs). Engagement metrics like opens, forwards, and replies can significantly bolster your email reputation. This highlights the problem with “do-not-reply” email addresses—they discourage engagement and can negatively affect how ESPs view your sender reputation. Additionally, it’s beneficial when recipients add your email address to their address books, as it signals trust and engagement to ESPs.

RISE Marketing empowers you to closely monitor recipient engagement through our advanced Tracking and Tagging features. Our system enables you to track when emails are opened and links are clicked, providing valuable insights into how your audience interacts with your messages. For detailed guidance on utilizing these features, refer to our user manual.

With the capability to create and manage up to 4,000 tags, you can conduct thorough A/B testing to optimize your email campaigns for maximum engagement. Moreover, RISE Marketing is designed to efficiently receive and process replies to your emails, eliminating any justification for using “do-not-reply” addresses. Email is meant to be a two-way communication tool, not a one-way broadcast medium, and our platform facilitates this by encouraging conversation and interaction between you and your recipients.

Email Content

Crafting email content that resonates with your audience goes beyond just sending what people want. For starters, you can leverage a test mailbox at RISE Marketing and utilize our spam filter features to receive a “spamicity” score. This score helps gauge how your email content might be perceived by spam filters, providing an early indicator of potential deliverability issues.

Personalization is key to making your emails stand out. Tailor each message to reflect the recipient’s specific interests or interactions with your application. A simple, yet impactful way to personalize is by addressing recipients by their name—courtesy goes a long way! RISE Marketing supports recipient variables, allowing for sophisticated customization within your email templates.

When it comes to the format of your emails, it’s wise to opt for multi-part emails (text and HTML) or text-only messages. ESPs tend to view HTML-only emails less favorably. Additionally, because ESPs often block images by default, relying solely on HTML can compromise the visual appeal of your email unless the recipient enables images. Tools like Litmus and Return Path can test how your email will appear across various ESPs and browsers.

A balance in your email’s composition—specifically, maintaining high text-to-link and text-to-image ratios—is beneficial. An overload of links or images can trigger spam alarms at ESPs. Watch out for common pitfalls like misspellings, the use of spam-trigger words (e.g., “buy now!”, “Free!”), and the excessive use of ALL CAPS AND EXCLAMATION MARKS!!! These are red flags for spam filters.

Consistency in your email’s metadata is crucial. Ensure that the domains in the “From” field, return-path, and message-id match the domain from which you’re sending. Including unsubscribe links and headers is not just a best practice; it’s a requirement, especially for providers like Hotmail, which strictly filters emails lacking these elements. RISE Marketing’s automatic unsubscribe feature can simplify compliance for you.

Gmail scrutinizes the Message ID and Received headers closely, with incorrectly formatted Message IDs potentially flagging your emails as spam. The easiest solution with RISE Marketing is to omit the Message ID in your emails, allowing our system to generate a correctly formatted one automatically.

Ensure any links in your email include the sending domain, and be cautious with popular URL shorteners, as they’re often exploited by spammers.

Lastly, A/B testing your emails, particularly subject lines, can significantly boost engagement. Utilize RISE Marketing’s tagging and tracking capabilities to measure the effectiveness of your A/B tests and refine your content for optimal performance.

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