Missing Emails: 5 Key Ways To Improve Email Delivery Rates
Most advice online about email delivery rates (deliverability) is about mass email marketing (ensuring your subscribers opt in properly and keeping your list clean). Photographer do some mass email market of course, but what about the success rate of low volume, emails sent to clients and suppliers for everyday purposes?
Email deliverability is one of the technical issues that you shouldn’t have to be concerned with day-to-day as a photographer. But when it does go wrong, it can be infuriating and somewhat perplexing. There is nothing worse than constantly worrying about if your emails are getting through to your customers (is that possibly why they haven’t replied to me?); or even if their emails are getting through to you. I once had a couple of email failures that cost me some important customers and I started doubling up with texts: but I quickly realised that was really inefficient and unsustainable.
Alas, there is no way you can guarantee 100% deliverability on all emails. But fortunately, there are a number of actions you take to maximise email success and sleep more peacefully at night.
Choose Your Email Service Provider Carefully
We are focusing here on day to day emails. Primarily conversations with prospective and existing customers that might include one-to-one sales pitches, information exchanges on wedding photography and customer service questions. Not mass email marketing campaigns or automated transactional emails (eg generated from your website).
With that in mind, I would not recommend using the specialist volume outbound providers (such as Mandrill, Mailchimp, Sendgrid) for your day to day emails as a photographer. Unless you are going to the expense of hiring an individual IP address, you would likely share an IP address that is blacklisted (these companies do their utmost to avoid email abuse and spamming in their system, but given the volume they deal with, some level of blacklisting is virtually impossible to avoid). Being blacklisted sounds worse than it is. In fact, there are actually many blacklists compiled by different organisations; and some blacklists are more serious than others; but it does, unfortunately, mean that some email service providers consequently won’t allow emails from these IP addresses into their customers’ inboxes.
For day to day emails, use a more specialist business application like Zoho.com or even gmail for business. Their email servers are better able to avoid blacklists and this is one of the key factors that will improve the probability of your email being delivered. You can use Senderscore.org for a free check on sender reputation.
Your SMTP Provider Can Be Different To Your Current Email Provider
If your heart sinks about the prospect of switching email provider, don’t despair because you can keep your current provider for your incoming email, and use a separate email service for your outgoing email (SMTP provider). This will minimise disruption, because you can continue using your existing inboxes – and just change your your SMTP settings within your email app (eg Applemail or Outlook).
Authenticate Your Domain
This probably the single most important measure you can make to improve your email deliverability as a small business. The reason that a receiving email provider such as Yahoo might reject an email is because it suspects that the email is being impersonated for either spam or fraud. If your company’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org, it is possible to send an fake email that appears to come from this email account without actually accessing your email account (if this happens to you, check your Sent Mailbox). But what the fraudster cannot do (usually) is access your domain ownership – only you can do that. So as the domain owner, you are able to authenticate your emails to denote that they are genuine; and Yahoo will be more content to let them through.
There are two main ways to authenticate your email, and we recommend you do both. The first is called Sender Policy Framework (SPK) and the second is DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM). It is not a complicated process, but you will need access to your domain’s DNS to be able to do this. Both your email or domain/DNS provider are likely to have step by step instructions on how to set this up and test it. You also need to be aware that some domain registration companies, such as 1and1 Ionos, do not offer DNS services. In which case, you would first need to transfer your domain registration to Namecheap, Go Daddy or a similar provider. Again, this process takes a few steps, but it is normally well documented and straightforward.
Tweak Your Emails To Avoid Spam Filters
So far, these measures have strictly related to email deliverability. But even if your email has excellent deliverability and doesn’t get blocked by your receiving email provider, it still might not make it through to your client’s inbox. The reason is that it could be trapped by the client’s spam filter. In theory, this is under the control of the client: they can make the spam filter more or less aggressive, and even add your company’s domain to their whitelist, to ensure it always gets through. (Sadly, Gmail users even have the option of catching all emails in the spam filter by default, unless the domain has been pre-confirmed as a verified contact.)
Realistically, many of your clients won’t understand their spam filter; and you’re certainly not in control of their knowledge or actions. So your emails have to minimise the chances of being caught by the filter.
The good news is that nowadays, spam filters usually look at a range of factors including email authentication. But the email content and language are still important – so avoid spammy language (such as overuse of the words “amazing”, “special” and “FREE”), avoid too many exclamation marks and hyperlinks; and try to make the headline specific rather than too generic-sounding. And of course, using the client’s name helps.
Use Online Tools To Test Your Emails
It’s reassuring that you can spend time making these improvements to your email delivery rates – and then be able to test them thoroughly. There are many free online tools available such as mail-tester.com which are easy to use and give you immediate feedback and action points.
But we recommend app.glockapps.com for really getting to grips with your email. This is helpfully available on a reasonable pay per use basis; and will help you with a range of indicators including authentication, blacklists and spam score. But most importantly it will help you drill down to which email providers are causing you problems.
For example, we analysed a business where it was suspected that emails were not making it through; and with Glockapps, we identified that the problem was with Microsoft (Hotmail, Outlook and Live). They were mysteriously sending all of the company’s emails to the spam box. This was despite no blacklist issue with the SMTP, full email authentication and no problems with other email providers. Ultimately, we concluded that Microsoft had a reputational issue with the domain, not the IP sender: (this could have stemmed from the company’s mass email marketing) – and this is hard to put right. So reluctantly the photography company needed to set up another domain for sending emails with Hotmail and Outlook addresses. This was a bit of a burden, but at least it solved the problem, and gave the company peace of mind about their emails being seen by their clients.