Keeping on the Good Side: General Email Best Practices to Remember

Stay in best practice. Keep readers happy. We’ve all been in that ever-so-frustrating situation where it feels like your inbox is out to get you. You had to search for the unsubscribe button, you couldn’t unsubscribe, you couldn’t read content on your mobile device – the list goes on and on.

Email marketers, you’ve probably wondered about certain sending standards, such as how visible to make your unsubscribe link/update your preferences link, how often to clean your list, and how important it is that your emails are responsive?

We’ve heard and answered a lot of these questions before, so let’s take a look at a handful of our favorites. Use this Q & A post to help stay off subscribers’ sh*tlists, and in CAN-SPAM compliance.

Q: Can I send an email that confirms that a user has successfully unsubscribed?
A: Sending a notification to users who’ve opted out is CAN-SPAM compliant in specific circumstances. However, confirming the unsubscribe is best handled as the final step in the opt-out process on your website, where an option to select frequency preferences can be offered as alternatives to unsubscribing completely.

Q: Should you automatically unsubscribe an email subscriber who has not opened your messages in 12 months or more?
A: While unsubscribing the unengaged is always a safe option, it may not always be the best one. According to Gmail’s Sri Somanchi, who spoke at the 2015 Email Evolution Conference, you might instead want to try beginning to ramp down the cadence at which you are continuing to send to an inactive subscriber. If you currently send weekly, begin to send every other week. If there is still no engagement after a few months, begin to ramp down to a monthly sending frequency. If the pattern of inactivity continues, you’ll want to target these subscribers with a final ultimatum. This type of ultimatum is sometimes called a Makeup / Breakup email campaign. Maintaining a clean, healthy list should be a top priority for any email marketer.

Q: How do I clean my email subscriber list?
A: Before you launch your next campaign, take a moment to make sure your list is squeaky clean. Here are three ways to keep your list up to snuff.

  1. Remove improperly formatted email addresses, duplicates, and syntax errors. Doing so will increase your deliverability rate. Many Email Service Providers (ESPs), including WhatCounts, do this automatically.
  2. An email address that hasn’t seen any engagement in opens or clicks within a pre-determined time frame should be cycled into a ramp-down campaign, as described above; removed from your list; or targeted for a standard re-engagement campaign.
  3. Use an online email validation tool to validate each email address to confirm the address is deliverable. Some companies that specialize in this include BriteVerify, towerdata and FreshAddress.

Q: I just started using a new ‘from’ address with a new domain, is there anything I need to do?
A: Yes, get your SPF (Sender Policy Framework) records set up! An SPF record is a simple text record that needs to be added to the Domain Name Server (DNS) for your ‘from’ address. This is your domain’s way of giving the ESP permission to send emails using your domain in the ‘from’ address. Without this SPF record set up, those emails will be seen as “spoofed,” or sent with a fake ‘from’ address, and they are likely to get blocked or sent to the SPAM folder. Adding an SPF record is extremely simple if you know where to look, and whoever administers your website/domain should know. To get the exact content of the SPF record, contact support at your ESP.

Q: If my subscribers open their emails on mobile devices, how can I make sure they don’t have to scroll all the way to the right and then all the way back to the left to read the copy?
A: Eek! Avoid this and other rendering problems by making sure your emails are designed responsively, meaning they display correctly across all the devices your subscribers use to access their email.

If I open an email on my iPhone and then again on my iPad, I would expect it to render properly on both devices. And, of course, don’t forget to test before you send (give a quick check in Litmus, too)! By designing your emails responsively, you’ll ensure the integrity of your brand and keep your subscribers happy.

Although this only scratches the surface on the conversations to be had regarding best practices, I hope these As answer some of your Qs and shed some light on some important best practices for email marketing.

Let us know any other questions you have by giving us a shout on Twitter, @WhatCounts.

Victoria Lopiano

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