Landing Your Emails – Expert Email Deliverability Tips

March 15, 2018 Julia Peavy

I recently had the pleasure of hosting Landing Your Emails: Tips for Email Deliverability webinar with Blackbaud. In this webinar, John Miller and I reviewed Return Path’s latest report on the Hidden Metrics of Deliverability (spoiler alert – nonprofit/educational organizations don’t fare as well) and provided a variety of tips on getting more emails to the inbox. We also had a very lively Q&A, but not enough time to answer all the questions – so we’re continuing that great dialogue here with some of your burning email deliverability questions…

What are some of the factors causing the deliverability rates of nonprofit clients to be significantly lower than for-profit clients?

There are potentially many factors that lead to poor deliverability in the nonprofit world. First, limited resources play a part in the ability to implement many aspects of an email program that drive engagement.  Welcome emails, triggered emails, and targeted, relevant content all increase engagement, but take time, effort and technical knowledge to develop. In addition, there is potentially more time between when supporters engage with email (e.g., only engaging once a year when their membership is up). Because of this, nonprofits don’t do as much segmentation and often just send the same content to all of their past donors – even if this person hasn’t donated for several years! By reaching out to old email addresses, organizations are more likely to hit recycle spam traps, trigger spam complaints, and ultimately, hurt the ability to get emails delivered to the inbox.

How does Gmail categorization work?

Gmail applies a category to each incoming email. However, Gmail categorization is not identical across a single campaign for all subscribers. So, you may see the same message delivered to the promotions category for one subscriber and the updates category for another subscriber. There are multiple factors that can influence different classifications for the same campaign. These factors include subscriber interaction, sender address, and mixed content (promotional and transactional) in one email.

How can we avoid the promotions tab in Gmail?

Trying to force your emails into the primary tab is often very difficult. In addition, Return Path research has also found that the read rates for most Gmail categories is not that different than emails in the primary tab. If you do find a certain type of email (like a donation tax receipt) continually being delivered to a certain category, you can try to adjust the content, test different subject lines, or switch the sending domain to one that more closely matches the content type.

Does an organization get notified if emails are marked as spam?

Generally, a client’s Email Service Provider (ESP) will set up Feedback Loops for all of the Mailbox Providers (Yahoo, Comcast, Microsoft, etc.) that have them. A feedback loop (FBL) is a service offered by mailbox providers, in which they provide copies of complaints generated when your subscribers report your email as spam. Mailbox providers send the message your subscriber marked as spam (aka complaint) so your ESP can remove the subscriber from your email list.

What is the ideal email frequency?

Unfortunately, this is a very difficult question! The amount of email your supporters can handle depends on a variety of factors: email program sophistication, variety of content available, size of your database, and your ability to segment your supporters (to name a few). If you are sending the same donation request every week to every supporter, this is likely too much for many of your supporters and could lead to deliverability problems as supporters tune out, or worse, hit the spam button. In general, you can send content more frequently if it’s varied, relevant, and engages your supporters. Use the metrics available to you (opens, clicks, unsubscribes, etc.) to identify segments that might be willing to receive more emails from your organization.

Want to learn more? Sign up for the forthcoming webinar to hear from other Blackbaud customers how they’ve improved email deliverability, check out deliverability resources from Blackbaud and  Return Path, or request a demo from Return Path.

Upcoming Webinar:

When Less Is More: Cracking the Email Deliverability Code in 2018  featuring The Nature Conservancy and Feeding America
Tuesday, March 27, 2018 at 1:00 p.m. ET

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