It’s that time again! It might only be September, but smart email marketers know that this is the time to start preparing and planning for a successful holiday season.
Recently, Jennifer Nespola Lantz and I presented a webinar on this very topic. Below we’ll recap key takeaways, and feel free to register to watch the recorded webinar here.
With the rise of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the blurring and expansion of the marketing window (Cyber Week? Cyber Month? It can get kind of crazy), the last two months of the year have become very important to email marketers. It is also the absolute worst time to run into deliverability issues as the timing leads to greater opportunity for lost revenue if you can’t make it to the inbox. Here are what we recommend you do (and don’t do) to avoid the naughy list (and the spam folder) this holiday season.
It all starts with being mindful of the challenges that internet service providers (ISPs) and mailbox providers (MBPs) are facing. Almost every marketer is sending extra email volume compared at this time of the year. This means that the servers that handle that inbound mail are busier and can even be overwhelmed with traffic. Similarly, the friendly postmasters and unix admins managing these servers will be busier than usual as well, dealing with a greater number of issues due to the higher volume.
Don’t experiment. A good marketer always tests marketing strategy, but do your testing and define your strategy before the holiday season is upon us. You don’t want an imperfectly executed test resulting in spam folder placement during this most important time.
Don’t expect Christmas miracles. Remember how we said that mailbox providers are overwhelmed? That means they’re not going to respond to requests for help as quickly as usual. And remember that many of them don’t respond at all – there is no Gmail bat phone. You submit a sample message and wait (and hope) for improvement.
Prevent volume spikes as much as possible. Spiking volume (quickly and greatly increasing email send volume) looks suspicious to mailbox providers and can lead to blocking and delays.
Don’t over send. Be strategic. Remember that every attempt to touch the same subscribers will result in increased unsubscribes and diminished engagement.
Keep your data clean. Now is not the time to dig deep into the database, looking to reconnect with email addresses you haven’t mailed for years. The poorer the data, the quicker you’re going to run into spam folder issues or blocking.
Those are things you shouldn’t do. But what should you do?
Confirm that your sending infrastructure is configured correctly. Make sure all mail you’re sending is authenticating with DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) and Sender Policy Framework (SPF). Does your mail pass SPF and DKIM alignment checks? Do you have DMARC in place? These are things that your email service provider (ESP) or CRM platform should be able to help you check and update.
Ensure you’ve got enough sending IP addresses. Different platforms have different guidelines, but it’s common to limit one IP address to sending around 2-3 million email messages per day, adding additional IPs to support additional volume. Check now and implement (and warm) additional IP addresses NOW, to avoid the risk of having to warm IP addresses in the middle of the marketing season.
Send “off hour” if possible. This is a trick that comes to us straight from a large mailbox provider. Most sending automation kicks off sends at zero minutes past the hour or 30 minutes past the hour (think 11:00 am or 11:30 am). If you back it up 9 minutes, or move it forward 11 minutes, you might send at 10:51 am or 11:41 am, and it can help deliver more quickly or at least prevent delays, because most of the world is trying to deliver their email campaigns at the exact top and bottom of the hour.
Be flexible, and learn from your past mistakes. If this isn’t your first rodeo, remember back to what you learned last time around? How can that position you to help maximize deliverability success this season?
This year presents some new challenges. For the first time, we’re seeing Gmail begin to outright BLOCK more spam messages than ever before – they used to be more likely to drop unwanted marketing mail in the spam folder. They still do that, but now marketers are seeing blocking when they might not have seent it in the past.
Domain reputation has hit the big time. It truly matters, especially at Gmail and Outlook.com, and it’s now to the point where senders on shared infrastructure need to ensure that they have their own custom domain, configured correctly, and build up engagement themselves, instead of relying on the blended reputation of a shared infrastructure.
Spamhaus has woken up and started to more aggressively monitor for and give feedback on marketing senders engaging in bad data practices. Bad data, old data, unconfirmed data, this all puts you at greater risk of a Spamhaus listing compared to years past.
Microsoft remains a challenge. Outlook.com is quicker to block (and less likely to quickly unblock) compared to other mailbox providers. Yet another reason to keep your nose (and data) clean as much as possible. Prevention is better than the cure, if the cure is going to be slow to come (and maybe never come).
Apple MPP has changed how marketers should look at open tracking. It’s still useful to help gauge overall engagement (and to look for trends over time), but it’s so far from exact that you can no longer use it to derive user-level activity.
BIMI is so HOT right now. With support from Yahoo, Gmail and Fastmail, and Apple and La Poste just adding support, the growth of support for the BIMI logo standard means that it is becoming something that smart marketers should consider implementing. Yahoo’s tests show that it helps boost engagement and that means that it could help boost your deliverability and revenue.
Find all this (in more detail) and more in our recorded webinar. Just head on over to the registration page to unlock and view it. And don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions or need deliverability assistance. We’re here to help!