Tags: deliverability

Why Are My Emails Going To The Spam Folder?

Why Are My Emails Going To The Spam Folder?

• March 17, 2019

This is a question that has been asked for a very long time. I’m sure when asked, you’ll get the runaround or an answer that doesn’t feel satisfactory. This is because figuring out why an email went into a spam folder is like trying to solve a murder mystery with no smoking gun. First, we need to understand how an email is sent. When an email is created, it first needs to be copied for all the individual contacts you’re sending to. Then it travels through the internet until it finally reaches your subscriber, but there is a gate with a security guard in the way. That’s the spam filter and he’s making sure that only the qualified emails are getting through. What is considered a qualified email? Unfortunately, there are many different criteria for a qualified email. Yahoo has its own criteria and so does Gmail. This is not to be mistaken for Gmail’s smart labels (promotions and social tabs), that\'s a different story. There are also private domains, that will have their own criteria. They will usually have subscribed to services like Spamhaus to reject emails based on their own qualifications, and Spamhaus is a well-known spam fighting, non-profit organization. Spamhaus also publishes blacklists that will cause emails from senders on that list, to be automatically placed in spam. Blacklists are the worst case scenario, though, and when you use a service provider, they will give your warnings before you land on a blacklist. Now that we know how an email is sent, there are normally two reasons why an email lands in the spam folder: Email Content Sending Speed/Frequency Email content is important because how your email is coded, what words your use, and how it looks all matters when it comes to deliverability, or whether your email goes into the inbox or spam box. When creating your email, for each image you may want to add a couple lines of text. Balancing out images, hyperlinks and text so that there’s not too much of either one. Of course, avoid using symbols, all caps and words that might involve a Nigerian prince. This is not widely known, but how often your send and how fast you send also matter. If your email was meant to be sent monthly, send monthly! Don’t be sporadic with your sending because it makes you, in a sense, “unreliable” to your subscribers and can lower your sending reputation. Your sending reputation determines whether an email may be accepted or rejected altogether. For those who are in a grey area, they may be sent to spam. Sending speed surprisingly plays a role. By sending way too fast, your email can be rejected entirely. It will show as “deferred” in your bounce logs. There are some services that may accept the email still, but according to reports from support, it can also land in the spam folder. After an email gets past the filter, we don’t actually know whether it lands in the spam folder. However, we do receive reports from our users and their subscribers. We know how emails are judged and sent, we don’t have concrete evidence to say definitively why an email went to spam. With public domain users like Gmail, Yahoo, and AOL, we’ll probably never know why. They don’t have any obligations to report that information to the senders. I recall seeing Gmail may generally state why an email may be in the spam folder. For Private Domain users, your IT manager who manages your emails may be able to find out, if they log that information. It could all just be automated for some. So a lot of times when this question gets asked, it’s very difficult to answer because there is no smoking gun.


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5 Issues That Hurt Your Email Deliverability and How To Correct Them

5 Issues That Hurt Your Email Deliverability and How To Correct Them

Practical Marketer • June 6, 2018

Email deliverability has been a challenge that even the most seasoned marketers combat on a regular basis. There’s probably nothing more painful than realizing that the email you had carefully written and designed never reached the subscriber’s inbox - it was likely pushed into the Junk or Spam folder where it won’t be ever read. Email deliverability - the ability to place emails into your subscribers\' inbox as intended - is the key metrics that marketers try to get right. If your email is not placed where it can be read, everything else is useless. The Spam Filter Despite everything you do from your end to get an email placed in the inbox of the recipient, it’s the mailbox provider that takes the final decision on where your email should be placed: the Inbox or the Junk folder. That means if you’re focusing on improving email deliverability, you should understand emails from the point of view of the mailbox provider. All mailbox providers have a spam filter - a mechanism that blocks incoming spam. Every single inbound email has got to pass through the spam filter of the mailbox provider, so avoiding the spam filter, by whatever means, is impossible. However, by following email marketing best practices, you can convince the spam filter that the email it has received from you is not spam. Factors Impacting Email Deliverability A ReturnPath study suggests an average of 13.5 percent of all incoming email is placed in the Spam folder. You don’t want your email to be one of them. Different spam filters use different standards to keep unwanted emails from reaching the inbox of the recipients. However, there are some common practices that all spam filters follow. Below is the list of issues that impact email deliverability and ways by which you can work on each to significantly increase your deliverability rates. IP address reputation Sender Reputation Email subject line and contents Email Service Provider - your automation partner Email list quality IP Address Reputation An IP address is a numerical label unique to each device that’s connected to any computer network using the Internet Protocol (IP) to communicate over a network. IP address reputation is the extent to which the IP address (actually the sender using the IP address) has acted responsibly while sending emails. Spam filters judge incoming emails on the basis of, among other characteristics, the IP address reputation of the sender. While sending email campaigns, you can either use a shared IP or a dedicated IP. A shared IP is where multiple senders use the same IP address as you do, to send their emails from. The reputation of a shared IP address is the aggregate of the reputation of all those who’ve used the IP before you do. So sharing an IP also means sharing the reputation of everyone else using the same IP. Poor practices of any of the previous sender will negatively influence your email deliverability. A dedicated IP, on the other hand, is one where you are the only user of the IP address. Hence the reputation of a dedicated IP is influenced only by your own practices, since you are the only user of that IP. That gives you absolute control over the IP reputation. How You Can Get Your IP Address Reputation Right If your volumes are small, using shared IPs helps you control costs. But as your sending volume grows, you’ll need to move to dedicated IPs. When you begin using a dedicated IP it has no previous history. So it has no reputation, good or bad. Your task will be to build the IP reputation by following email marketing best practices. You can’t immediately send a large number of emails the moment you get a dedicated IP; you’ll have to gradually increase the number of emails you send (a practice called throttling), as mailboxes slowly start recognizing you as a responsible sender. Begin by sending to your most engaged subscribers. That way, you get a much better open rates and a zero bounce rate. This sends positive signals to the mailbox provider regarding your reputation. 2. Sender Reputation Sender reputation is a composite result of the IP address you send emails from, your domain reputation, SPF (Sender Policy Framework) authentication, the bounce rate of your campaigns till date, subscriber complaints, engagement, whether (and how many) spam traps sit on your subscriber list and other factors. Email engagement - what subscribers do when they receive your email - is key. Subscriber actions that suggest they are willing to interact further with you, like opening the email, reading the email, clicking on a link, following a call to action, forwarding the email and so on is considered ‘good engagement’. Actions like not opening the email or deleting the email without reading it is considered ‘poor engagement’. How You Can Improve Your Sender Reputation Keep new subscribers in a separate list. Add them to the regular list only after new subscribers respond to your double opt-in. Or add them to the regular list only if the welcome email doesn’t show a hard bounce. Maintain the right frequency of emailing to subscribers. Long gaps between emails raise the chances of valid email addresses being converted into spam traps. If you email to your subscribers at irregular intervals, they might forget you and are more likely to mark your incoming email as Spam. Have a plan of action to handle inactive subscribers. Give it your best shot to win them back. But once their inactivity crosses a certain threshold, stop sending them emails. Finally, never use purchased lists. 3. Email Subject Line and Content Nearly 60% of the email traffic worldwide is spam. That suggests spammers are getting aggressive, so spam filters need to stay a step ahead. One way spam filters identify spam is the email content. Poor grammar and high-risk words like “Free” and “Easily make $$$ online” are some of the first things that make your email look suspicious. Other content that looks suspicious to spam filters includes weight reduction, body enhancement and related pharmacy products. An all-caps subject-line is almost a guarantee your email won’t get past the spam filter. Moreover, subject-lines with too many exclamation marks is another indicator the mail is spam. Earlier, emails with shortened URLs in the content were commonly red-flagged; today instances of a shortened URL being red-flagged are a lot less frequent, thanks to its heavy use in social media platforms like Twitter. Messages that contain only a link or only an image are widely treated as spam. How You Can Get This Right Run your email draft through the Spam Check feature Benchmark provides. It gives you an excellent feedback on whether you need to improve your content. Build a compelling Subject Line. If the subscriber doesn’t like the Subject Line, she’ll likely delete your email without opening it. Mailbox providers, especially Gmail, believe that when recipients delete your emails without opening them, recipients are not interested in your email - a sign you’re sending spam! Over time, your subsequent emails to the same recipient may be pushed into the Spam folder. It’s best to use clickable keywords in place of lengthy URLs. Make sure the Unsubscribe link is clearly visible. This may sound a bit counter-intuitive but it works. When recipients can’t find the unsubscribe option easily, they tend to mark the email as Spam! 4. Email Service Provider (ESP) - Your Automation Partner Select your ESP on the basis of their experience and technical competence, and not some tall claims. For instance, claims by ESPs about overnight improvement in your deliverability rates when you switch to their service from elsewhere are mostly too good to be true. Actually, something opposite is equally likely to happen! Remember, when you switch ESPs, you are also switching IP addresses. So when the recipient mailbox providers notice you’re suddenly sending from a new range of IPs, they will, rightfully, turn cautious and may place fewer emails in the inbox than they did with the older IP address. If your new ESP doesn’t understand the importance of throttling, the recipient email box provider might actually push more of your emails into the Spam folder. How the Right ESP Matters Choosing the right email marketing partner is more than half the job done. The right partner will have most things figured out for you. To begin with, they have the right technology in place that can handle hundreds of thousands of emails. They can, for instance, help you maintain segmented email addresses lists, based on the engagement patterns or interests of the subscribers. You can also set a variety of subscription options. For instance, instead of losing your subscriber entirely, you can let her choose the frequency of her subscription: a weekly newsletter, a fortnightly compilation or may be a monthly digest. Finally, a good ESP will have strong measures in place that will have you covered. For example, even if you’ve opted for shared IPs, you can be sure the IP reputation has been maintained at optimum levels by your ESP. 5. Email List Quality One of the factors influencing the deliverability rates of your emails is also the one you can swiftly act upon: bad email addresses. Maybe there was a typo when the subscriber keyed in the email address while signing up, maybe the subscriber knowingly entered a wrong address, maybe the subscriber is using a disposable address…Reasons like this lead to your list containing a number of email addresses that are not safe to send emails to. Sending campaigns to these addresses lead to bounces, poor or no engagement (if the address is role-based or disposable), or complaints. For instance, BenchMark notes sending emails to role-based addresses results in high complaints. Poor list hygiene, therefore, influences email deliverability. How You Can Deal with Bad Email Addresses Consider double opt-in. After the subscriber signs up, send them a confirmation email, asking them to click upon a link to activate their subscription. Subscribers who do not follow this action do not receive further emails. Next, improve your list-building practices. When collecting email addresses manually, e.g. when your team is writing down addresses, spelling errors are most likely to creep in. While collecting email addresses online, use an email verification API service to validate the email address at the entry point, such as signup forms or applications, before the address gets added into your subscriber list. Use an email verification service to verify email addresses of all your subscribers. It is strongly advised that you validate email addresses at least once a year. These, by no means, are the only steps you can take to improve email deliverability, but these are some of the most significant ones. Wish you great success in your email marketing!


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The Deliverability Formula: 5 Steps to Reach the Inbox

The Deliverability Formula: 5 Steps to Reach the Inbox

Practical Marketer • April 8, 2018

Getting to your subscribers’ inbox is as simple as hitting send, right? Yes. More accurately, yes, but… There are a few steps that come into play before that happens. If done correctly, then it is as simple as hitting send. The Deliverability Formula: 5 Steps to Reach the Inbox Our team of experts has compiled years of experience into a new guide sure to help you thrive with email marketing. If you’re not seeing the results you desire, or even if you just want to see your Return On Investment grow, these five steps will help you get there. Step 1: Define the Private Domain Best Suited For Your Business The address from which you do your email marketing is important. Aside from helping your email deliverability, it also factors into security issues as well. Not only that, but a private domain commands respect that a Gmail, Yahoo, etc. address does not. Our new guide provides resources to help you do this … and that’s just step one. Step 2: Authenticate Your Emails By Adding A Sender Policy Framework Record Sender Policy Framework (SPF) Records identify which mail servers are permitted to send email on behalf of your domain. If that sounds complicated, it’s not. Think about it like when you look through the peephole in a door. You want to make sure the person on the other side is who they say they are. SPF Records are email marketing’s version of that. Step 3: List Verification Verifying your list doesn’t mean you didn’t have a good list to begin with. It’s improving upon what you already have and eliminating human error. List verification helps you remove email addresses that are no longer active, due to individuals changing jobs or addresses. It’s also dropping the ones that were typed incorrectly when they subscribed. This process can help your deliverability and even reduce costs, as you won’t want to pay to send to invalid email addresses. Step 4: Craft Subject Lines That Get Your Emails Opened Subject lines are your first impression. They’re a major factor in what determines whether or not your email will be opened. If you know how to write them, you’re on your way to better email marketing just from this step alone. This guide shows you how. Step 5: Apply the Best Content and Design Tactics to Avoid Spam Filters What you write in your email and how you put it together also play a role in the delivery of your emails. It’s simple things like knowing certain words or phrases to avoid or the best practices for using images. Get Your Copy Today What are you waiting for?! Download The Deliverability Formula: 5 Steps to Reach the Inbox Blog.


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We talk to you about the importance of configuring SPF and DKIM records

We talk to you about the importance of configuring SPF and DKIM records

Beyond • February 6, 2018

How many business emails do you send in a typical month? Probably a lot. Maybe thousands of them. At the very least a newsletter with weekly or monthly special offers or related information about your company. Before the birth of Email Marketing, ISPs only managed a small amount of emails. However, in adopting this strategy, our whole database can be reached with a single click. Because of it, ISPs had to create ways to filter emails, letting the good senders have their space in the subscribers´ inbox. Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo, among others, have understood that this is a two-way task and demand the sender go through a series of actions to help them. Today, we want to explain how important it is to configure SPF and DKIM records in your email marketing strategy. This may be the first time you’re hearing both names. Thus, throughout this article, we want to help you all to achieve your Email Marketing strategy not only by basing it on designing, sending and measuring, but by addressing external factors that are familiar with your day-to-day routine, that affect your deliverability. As we said in the beginning of this article, inbox trays spend the day categorizing emails so we only receive messages from: A trustworthy sender, that is to say, any email with whom we have regular business, or an email from a colleague, a client, or a family related person. Special offers, eBooks, and newsletters in general, the information we have subscribed to. Nevertheless, there is no doubt Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo handle a massive amount of advertising emails, and they have to inspect them one by one and give inbox permission only to those that pass their spam filters. At the same time, they have to allocate suspect emails into the junk and spam folders. With regular, one-to-one emails, we don\'t bump into this problem. It becomes a real concern when we use an Email Marketing platform such as ours, where campaigns designed by businesses need to pass these spam filters. However, sending through an ESP is still the best bet for businesses to do email marketing. It’s like the difference in going to a party alone, versus being with the host. The host already knows everyone and has established relationships. In email, those established relationships are what will land you in the inbox, when everything else is done right. Today, we want to talk to you about the filter related to the safety of your emails being sent. Technological development has enabled spam distributors to easily gain access to the information inside your emails, and therefore the ISPs reward higher deliverability to the senders that take action to encrypt their messages, protecting the delivery process. What is a SPF record? A Sender Policy Framework record, or SPF, is a system of domain names (DNS), that identifies mail servers (like Benchmark) that are allowed to send messages on behalf of your domain. The goal of SPF records is to avoid spammers sending fake messages with your domain´s sender address. The receivers may verify the SPF record to check if a message coming from your domain is from an authorized email server. The advantage of SPF records is that they can only be configured by the domain´s owner and act as a ´passport´ to identify the emails by the time of their arrival, helping ISPs to categorize them into authorized or SPAM. What are DKIM records? The DKIM standard (DomainKeys Identified Mail) helps the emails to fight against identity deception (spoofing) by adding a digital signature to your emails´ headers which are always examined by the ISPs. Basically, it is an additional authentication step for your emails. Differently from SPF, which enables Benchmark to send emails on your behalf, in this case the DKIM records add a domain name identifier to your message, using cryptography techniques to validate it as the receiver gets the email. That way, the ISPs receiving the incoming emails from such domain may use this digital signature to help them determine if each email is legitimate. In order to have a better understanding, this is what you design: And this is what the ISPs really analyze and approve through their filters if the email checks with the demanded authentication measures: The lines marked in red are part of the SPF records already configured and of the DKIM records that still need to be setup. The record to be configured inside DKIM is called CNAME record. In the same way as with the SPF records, we will add a line of code to the domain´s configuration. Once you get to this point, it is ideal to contact your hosting company technical support so they can help you setup both domains. What can you do to prevent the email from ending up in the spam folder or not being sent at all? It\'s very simple. Just add these digital signatures mentioned above to your emails so no one can get in the way of the sending procedure and authorize Benchmark to send emails or your behalf. To help you with this task, Benchmark Email has developed the technology that enables the compliance with sending safety protocols required by different ISPs. The procedure is so simple that you only need to access your domain´s account settings, find the DNS, and copy and paste the following lines of code: STEP 1: update the SPF records v=spf1 a mx include:bmsend.com ~all STEP 2: update the CNAME records Tag/Host: bmdeda._domainkey.YOURDOMAIN Destination/Objective: bmdeda._domainkey.bmsend.com Access your domain´s account settings and upgrade these fields. Once it is done, contact us so we can verify it and update your account. What happens if I do not setup SPF and DKIM records? If you do not authenticate your emails, your messages can get blocked or end up in the spam folder. Making these adjustments in the configuration is going to increase the possibility that your emails are accepted by the ISPs, reaching the inbox folder properly. If you are responsible for the email marketing strategy, the head of marketing, or work independently for clients, or even for yourself, as a blogger or SME that does email marketing, please contact our Customer Engagement Specialists if you need any help. If you believe this content can be be interesting to your audience, please share it!


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Overcoming Our Fears: Getting Started with Email Marketing

Overcoming Our Fears: Getting Started with Email Marketing

Practical Marketer • January 5, 2018

For a lot of us, doing something new is scary. It could be that we fear the unknown, a fear of failing or that we fear we won’t know how to do something. Regardless of the source, many of us won’t ever try a new thing as we succumb to our fears. When it comes to email marketing, several fears or impediments may come into play. So, let’s address them. But first, let’s take a look at why you should even be doing email marketing in the first place. If you made it this far, you’re at least curious. The Case For Email Marketing It’s projected that there will be 2.9 billion email users worldwide by 2019. That’s quite the large audience. Additionally, 105 billion emails are sent daily, with that number expected to increase to 246 billion by 2020. If the numbers aren’t convincing enough, here are several more reasons you need to be doing email marketing: It’s Affordable. Hands down, email marketing is one of the most, if not the most, cost-effective marketing solutions available to businesses today. It\'s Fast. You can create and send your first email in under thirty minutes. You can reach thousands (or more!) of customers and leads in less time than it takes to watch an episode of Game of Thrones. Sending the right message will even inspire your subscribers to quickly engage with your campaign and act upon your call to action. It’s Focused. Few people enjoy feeling like they’re being marketing to. Email marketing allows you to segment your lists into targeted opportunities which allows you to address the needs and wants of your subscribers and provide them with value. That makes for a happy, engaged audience. It’s Simple. Anyone can succeed with email marketing, no matter their experience. Thanks to email templates and drag and drop email builders, as well as other easy-to-implement tools such as A/B Testing and List Segmentation, the learning curve for email marketing is lower than ever before. Plus, real-time reporting shows you your successes and areas for improvement. When your strategy is properly executed, your campaigns will contribute to managing themselves while freeing you up to plan the next move. It Works. A well-planned email campaign will work to drive traffic to your website, increase sales and create ongoing engagement that leads to loyal customers. In fact, for every $1 spent on email marketing, the Return on Investment is $42 earned. Other marketing opportunities simply don’t see those results, all while creating and building brand reputation. So, now you know why you should be doing email marketing. Now, what’s stopping you? Fear of Not Knowing Where to Get Started In the almost decade that I have been working in the email marketing industry, there is one statement that I hear all too frequently from business owners: “We’re not ready for email marketing yet.” However, the real reason they’re not doing email marketing yet is that they don’t know what to do or afraid they’ll do the wrong thing. The truth is, any business, even before they have officially opened their doors (either at a brick and mortar physical location or on the web), should have an email marketing account. Why? It All Starts with a List An email list is the single most important marketing asset to any business. It’s more important than social media followers and a presence on those sites. After all, those sites could go away one day, and all your hard work would be erased along with your followers on that site. Your list of contacts endures. Plus, you can start growing your list even before you company officially launches. It’s a good idea to place a signup form on your website and Facebook page. Tell people to signup to get updates from the company to begin growing excitement. That reason for that is twofold. On the one hand, it helps you build hype leading up to your launch date. It also helps you hit the ground running once you’re open for business. Upload Your List Many companies have a list of contacts, even if they are new to email marketing. For some, it’s the list of customers with whom you’ve already established a relationship. For others, it’s the leads you’re already nurturing with one-off basic emails or phone calls. It could even be just the friends and family members who you can test your early strategies on. Take what you have to work with and upload it to your email marketing account. Based on the amount of data you have on your list, you may even be able to begin some segmentation. At the very least, it’ll give you your start to email marketing. You have to start somewhere, and even sending to a small audience will help you learn what works. Create a Signup Form After uploading any existing contacts you may have already had, a signup form is going to be your new best friend. According to the Nielsen Norman Group, when asked to opt-in to receive updates for a company, 90% chose to receive an email newsletter. Only 10% elected to get updates via Facebook. This is how your list will grow. From there, you expand your reach, follow-up with leads and build your brand--all while doing nothing more than placing a lead capturing form in the places that people interested in your business may visit. So what goes into a great signup form? Keep It Simple, Stupid. You don’t want anything on your list that will give someone pause before signing up. That means keep it short by not asking for too much information. Do you need more than the email address? Can you get that information or qualify your leads in another way? In most cases, the answer is yes. Set clear expectations for the subscriber. This is important for a couple of reasons. First, it helps convince people to sign up. If they know they’re going to get deals from you or helpful information once a month, they won’t be worried about getting their inboxes bombarded. It also helps you attract the kind of subscribers you want and ones who won’t quickly unsubscribe. Create a strong CTA. It should make your site visitors or social followers feel like they simply have to sign up to hear from you and that they have to act now. Make sure the button is large enough to be easily noticed Again, the button must stand out. Traditionally, red buttons work best, and green is the second most effective. Your CTA copy should not be longer than 40 characters. Use first-person language such as “me” or “my” to help potential subscribers relate better. Now that you know what makes up a great signup form, it’s also important to understand where you should put them. Your homepage is the obvious place to start. Some will place it right smack dab above the fold, as the hero image at the top of their page. These are people whose business relies on capturing email addresses. You can’t miss this signup form on the homepage for by Regina. It helps that they’re offering something for signing up. Any incentive is always helpful. Others may relegate their signup form to a sidebar or footer on the page. Make sure it’s on the top of your sidebar. The further down the page it gets, the fewer subscribers you’ll receive. Yes, the footer is all the way at the bottom of your page. However, if someone gets that far, they’re interested in what you’re doing. That makes for better quality subscribers in most cases. A company like Casper knows you’re not on their website to sign up for their emails. That’s why it makes sense for them to reserve their signup form for their footer. The “Free bedtime reading” copy is very on brand for them. If you want to demand attention, use a pop-up signup form. A website visitor will not be able to miss your signup form when it pops directly into their sightlines. You can’t ignore these savings from TOMS when their signup form pops up in front of your face. Saying “Join Us” is another nice touch. It sounds like you have less on the line to sign up. It sounds more like your helping them in their cause of donating shoes to those in need. Aside from your homepage, here are a few other places you should put a signup form: Your blog. It can even be a separate list from your main list. These people may just want to subscribe to receive email updates when you post new content on the blog. Facebook page. Your social media followers aren’t always your email subscribers or website visitors. Change that. About Us page. For many businesses, the About Us page is among the most visited on their website. Take advantage of the eyeballs on the page! That little bar across the top of your site. You’ve probably seen it on some sites you frequent. There are tools that make it easy. Try Hello Bar or ViperBar. SPF Records and DKIM The phrase SPF Records sounds like it means I have to show proof to my overbearing mother that I wore sunscreen at the beach yesterday. DKIM sounds intimidating as well. They don’t need to be! While these two steps in getting started with email marketing are on the technical side, there are easy to follow instructions on how to do them. But first, let’s understand them. SPF Records SPF stands for Sender Policy Framework. If you’re like me, that doesn’t mean anything. In fact, it makes it more confusing. Simply put, SPF Records allow ISPs and inbox clients to trust the authenticity of your emails. Still lost? Say someone knocks on your door. You look through the peephole to see who it is. SPF Records are the peephole of your email campaigns. One of the most common tricks that spammers run is a phishing scam. They design an email to look like it’s from your bank and use it to gain access to your passwords or other sensitive data. Establishing your SPF Records means the ISP can identify the email campaigns you’re sending. It ensures the best chance of delivery of your email campaigns. To establish your SPF records, you’ll do so with your DNS Manager. If you’re unsure of what a DNS Manager is, you’re not alone. If you’ve purchased a domain name and hosting, you have access to a DNS manager. If you don’t, whoever runs your website does. Ask them for help. The SPF record for yourwebdomain.com should go in your DNS manager something like this: yourwebdomain.com IN TXT “v=spf1 a mx ip4:1.2.3.4 include:thirdpartyespdomain.com -all” In this example, 1.2.3.4 = the IP Address of your mail server or 3rd party ESP, like Benchmark Email. Also, thirdpartyespdomain.com = the domain of the 3rd party ESP, such as Benchmark Email, or their relay mail server’s domain name. Your ESP will give you this information. Here’s a very helpful FAQ that will help you establish SPF Records with various domain hosts. Additionally, you can get help with your SPF Records on these sites: http://www.openspf.org/SPF_Record_Syntax http://www.openspf.org/FAQ Once you’ve finished establishing your SPF Records, it’s time to test it. You can do so with either of these sites: http://www.mxtoolbox.com/spf.aspx http://www.kitterman.com/spf/validate.html If you’re still lost or confused, you can reach out to the support with your domain host or your ESP. Both will have plenty of resources to help you out. We cannot emphasize enough how important this step is to getting started with email marketing on the right foot. If you need help, just ask! DKIM DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) is another intimidating sounding phrase, but one which is another easy step in setting yourself up for good email delivery from the start. What DKIM does, is grants an organization the responsibility for an email being delivered, which may pertain to your own business or the ESP you’re using … or both! Any ESP will automatically authenticate your emails with DKIM. That’s good news! However, you can take it up a notch and enable a DKIM CName, which gives you double authentication. That means your emails are authenticated as coming from your business, sent through your ESP. This lets the ISPs identify you as the sender and builds your sender reputation with the help of your ESP as your co-signer. This is what you’ll need: CNAME RECORD FOR DKIM: bmdeda._domainkey.yourdomain.net VALUE: bmdeda._domainkey.bmsend.com Here is a very helpful FAQ to assist you with DKIM and various domain hosting companies. For even more on what you can do to improve your email deliverability, check out our guide The Deliverability Formula: 5 Steps to Reach the Inbox.


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The Advantages of Using A Dedicated IP in Email Marketing

The Advantages of Using A Dedicated IP in Email Marketing

Practical Marketer • June 19, 2017

In this second article of our deliverability series, we’re going to be looking at the importance of using a Dedicated IP. If you’re not sure what that is, or if you’re finding that your emails often end up in the spam folder, get comfortable, take note and get ready to put our second installment of expert advice into practice. If you’re running your own business or working in email marketing, you’ll expect that your emails arrive safe and sound in your recipient’s inbox. What you\'d least want, of course, is that they end up in the spam folder. To reduce the chances of this happening, one of the things that you can do is use a Dedicated IP. Boosting your chances of avoiding the spam folder is just one of the advantages of using a Dedicated IP in your email marketing. Let’s have a look at a few more. What is a Dedicated IP? Most of you have probably heard of Dedicated IPs but you may not be sure of exactly what they are. Let’s imagine then that an IP address is a road where, instead of having cars, we have lots of people\'s emails using the road. This would be a Shared IP. A Dedicated IP, on the other hand, is a private road where only the owner’s emails can travel. The advantage is that emails on a Dedicated IP move quicker and remain unaffected by the potential “accidents” of other users along the way. A Dedicated IP is for your very own use and not sharing it with others means that you don’t have to worry about how their quality and quantity of sending could affect you negatively. For example, if, from a Shared IP, one or more users sends spam, all users in that group could be marked as spammers. In the case of a Dedicated IP, only you would use it so your campaigns will depend on your actions alone. If you are using or choose to use Benchmark as your email marketing specialists, we will work to protect your reputation, even if you opt to use a Shared IP. We apply a quality protocol that groups clients by their public reputation. So, to give you an example, this protocol might qualify clients as good, bad or average. If you have good quality lists but don’t work by best email marketing practices, then you might belong to the average group. We monitor this behaviour constantly but you can also work to make sure you’re always in the best possible group by ensuring that you abide by best practices. You should also bear in mind that the various ISPs (like Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail etc.) have lists of IPs called “blacklists” and they use them to help to reduce spam. These lists contain IPs that are known to be used to send spam and they’re used to filter email messages and help when categorising a message as spam or not. Some examples of organisations that compile blacklists to help combat spam are SPAMHAUS, Trend Micro and spamcop.net. Of course, maximising the advantages of having a Dedicated IP requires that you use good email marketing practices. You don’t want to risk its reputation or end up on a blacklist. Some of these good email practices include: Good quality lists: You must have permission from your recipients. Double opt-in contacts are best. Minimal spam reports: The more your email campaigns are marked as spam, the more your reputation suffers. Avoid sending from public addresses like @gmail, @hotmail etc.: Using a private domain (like me@mydomain.com) looks more professional, but it also helps build your reputation. A private domain allows you to add an SPF record too, providing an extra layer of authentication that you wouldn’t get with a public address. List compilation: Don’t buy lists, avoid using lists that belong to third-parties and do not harvest addresses. Keep an eye out for future installments of this series for more definitions and advice. Other advantages of Dedicated IPs Dedicated IPs offer greater reliability when it comes to time-sensitive promotions. Those campaigns that require special attention also benefit from the timely delivery offered here. If you’re a high volume sender, we recommend that you buy various Dedicated IPs, apart from the one(s) that we will configure for you, as this will improve send speed. If you’re a client on a smaller plan, then one Dedicated IP is beneficial for the reasons mentioned above. At Benchmark, when we finish configuring a high volume plan, we will send a maximum of 20,000 emails at a time for your first 5 campaigns. Why? Because the various ISPs don’t like receiving lots of emails all of a sudden from an IP address with no history. Your campaigns would run the risk of ending up in the spam folder or being blocked. What about Dedicated IPs that are not on high volume plans? In this case, we “warm” the IP up for you beforehand and then it’s up to you to build your reputation and keep it as close to 100% as possible. In fact, you can keep an eye on your IP’s reputation on sites like https://senderscore.org/. Remember that your Dedicated IP with Benchmark costs just $28.95/month. If you’re a client with a high volume plan, contact us to find out how many Dedicated IPs you already have included in your plan. Adding another takes just 24 hours to set up and will boost your send speed. Did you like this article? Have you spotted any areas of your email marketing that you can improve? This is the second article from our brand new deliverability series. Next up, \"The 5 factors that affect your newsletter’s deliverability.\" Follow us, subscribe and don’t miss out! Help others learn more about email marketing best practices by sharing on social media and spreading the word. And, if you have any questions for us, just leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you. Enjoy learning with Benchmark Email!


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How Design Impacts Deliverability

How Design Impacts Deliverability

Practical Marketer • April 19, 2017

Just before we get started, this article isn’t about us showing you how to make an email look beautiful. This is the sixth article in our deliverability series and the intention is not to teach you design tips here, but to explain the kind of design that your email campaigns need to pass spam filters and get to your recipient’s inbox. So, what works best? The answer is, in fact, surprisingly simple. What works best are emails that are 100% text. No images. That’s the answer when looking at the topic purely from a deliverability perspective. I know, though, that you need to balance this ideal with your need to make campaigns that convert and are aesthetically pleasing. It’s up to you how you balance one goal against the other. The important thing is that when you finish reading this article, you’ll understand how to design your campaigns so that your designs don’t harm your deliverability. Here’s what to keep in mind when designing for deliverability: Keep your use of images to a minimum As I mentioned above, in an ideal world, your email would be 100% text. I know that that doesn’t make for beautiful emails but it’s true. If you want to include images, you should aim for a ratio of 70% text and 30% images. The further you are from this 70:30 ratio, with images taking a heavier weighting, the more trouble you’ll have with your deliverability. Single column designs Yes, it might not be very exciting but simplicity is the key to success. Creating multi-column or complex emails won’t help you get to the inbox. Designing single-column emails offers several benefits: content clarity, order and, importantly, your responsive email campaign will be able to more easily adapt to all screen types. Be careful with colours The most highly recommended colours are #FFFFFF for the email’s background and #000000 for the font colour. You can imagine which colours they are, can’t you? That’s right, a white background and black text. Again this would be what you’d use in a perfect world. I know you’ll want to use your company colours but, be careful, don’t go wild with them. Don’t put them as the background colours for example. I’d also recommend that you keep an eye on making sure that there’s a strong contrast between text and background colours. They should not be similar as it makes reading your email a lot more difficult for your recipient. Font type and formatting We’re often asked why we only have 17 fonts in our drag & drop editor. The answer is simple. They are the only fonts that are read and accepted by all inbox clients. This means that when you use one of them, you know that it will be shown in that exact format across all inboxes. Besides choosing the font itself, it’s also best that you keep the text formatting simple. Going all out with bold formatting, for example, could help land your campaign in the spam folder or, if the text is quite large, it might simply SEEM LIKE YOU’RE SHOUTING. Try to keep in mind that usability and the experience of your recipient when interacting with your email is important here. Spammy words and symbols This is a classic. You’ve probably already heard that you need to be careful with the kinds of words that you use in your emails because if you abuse words like free, earn money, millions, extra income, free access, work from home, amazing, limited time, mortgages, credit, opportunity, act now, price, thousands, lose weight … or use several exclamation marks, capital letters, currency signs, asterisks or unusual symbols, it’s very likely that you will see poor deliverability. We often get asked about emojis and, while you can use them, make sure your use of them is relevant and not excessive. Be careful with links too. Make sure they work and that they are sending your recipient to the right page. An email with false, incorrect or misleading links will look suspicious to spam filters and won’t help further your objectives either. Subscription links You probably weren’t expecting to see this last section, but it’s part of the design of emails created in our Drag & Drop editor and has an important impact on deliverability. In this block, you can choose the links to include although the unsubscribe link is not optional. We also recommend that you always include the following at least: Manage subscription Sent to information Report abuse These links will silently but effectively look after your reputation. Don’t be afraid of including them and always keep things open and transparent for your subscribers. That’s it for today’s article. Be sure to apply these 6 basic but essential pieces of advice to your email marketing and let us know how you get on. Help others learn more about email marketing best practices too by sharing on social media and spreading the word. And, if you have any questions for us, just leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you. Enjoy learning with Benchmark!


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One Simple Way To Rescue Your Email Marketing Strategy

One Simple Way To Rescue Your Email Marketing Strategy

Practical Marketer • April 12, 2017

We have seen in previous articles why it’s so important to build your own database but did you know that it’s also extremely important that you keep it up to date? If your subscriber list isn’t up to date, then you’ll certainly see deliverability issues and this not only means that you won’t see as many conversions as you expect but also that you risk your emails being marked as spam. Keep reading to find out how to get better results from your email marketing campaigns. Manage your list to optimise email deliverability I hinted at this above but my first piece of advice is that you need to make sure that you’re creating your database yourselves, from scratch. Forget about buying lists of thousands of subscribers. It’s much better to start with nothing and encourage people to sign up bit by bit than buy a list or harvest addresses from the internet. Sending 100 emails to people that have given you their email address voluntarily is much more effective than sending to 1000s that have never even heard of you before. To create a list, you need to get people interested enough to give you their email address. To do this, you’ll need to think up a strategy for each of the different channels on which you intend to be present. Here are some ideas that are 100% practical and effective: Website: Not only do you need a signup form but your contact form must be visible and easy to find. You must also inform all those that contact you via the contact form that they are also opting in to receiving future info and updates from you. Blog: It’s likely that your website has a link to your blog. If that’s the case, make sure that you request email addresses via a popup that appears when your readers visit. You can tempt them to share their valuable information by letting them know that, in return, they’ll receive inside info, a special offer, a report etc. Create a group on tools like Meetup and organise face-to-face events with people that have interests in common with yours. Organise online courses and webinars where all participants must register with their email address to attend. On your landing pages, offer ebooks, manuals, checklists or any other content of value that can be downloaded when an email address is provided. Competitions and giveaways on social media. Exchange business cards with new contacts at business shows, fairs, events and networking sessions. Once you have subscribers, it’s very important that you communicate with them in a way that keeps them opening your emails, going back to your website and clicking on your links. Automation Pro makes doing this really easy. It’s an excellent tool for keeping people engaged and interested as it allows you to create personalised journeys for each of your clients based on what they do or don’t do on your website or in response to your emails. Let’s have a more detailed look at how to engage and keep engagement high. Every time you send a campaign, you need to keep an eye on who is and who isn’t opening your messages. If you have a group of people who haven’t opened any of your messages in some time, they may not be interested in your product anymore, or the email address might no longer be in use. In cases like these, the risk of being marked as spam is increased. Here are a few practical tips to follow: On Benchmark, you have a “Clean List” tool. It’s very important that every 3 or 4 campaigns, you review the quality of your list and delete confirmed and hard bounces. If you have a high percentage of people who haven’t opened your emails in several campaigns you can: Delete them from the list. They’re not interested in what you’re offering and deleting them may mean that you can move onto a smaller plan. Not only are you saving money but you’re increasing your open rate by only focusing on your core subscriber. Separate those that open from those that don’t. With this strategy, it’s best to create a subaccount where you’ll place only those that don’t open your emails. To this group, you’ll send a reengagement campaign. Those that come back on board can be moved to the master account. Doing this will make sure that your master account has an excellent reputation as you’ll be sending to only your most engaged subscribers from here. Also, make sure that the campaigns sent to the non-openers are built specifically to re-engage. You should not be sending the same email to someone on a reengagement campaign as to someone who is already showing an interest. Consider creating segments too. As you know, the more personalised and targeted the campaign, the more relevant and successful it will be. Lastly, remember that within your Benchmark account, you have access to a Targeted Emailing tool. Take advantage of this tool and create lists of those that have opened several campaigns or a specific campaign, those that don’t open, those that click, those that click on a specific link and so on. You can find out how interested your subscriber list is in particular products, for example. Just include the products in question in a campaign and wait to see who clicks. Once you’ve sent the campaign and have the results, you can create lists segmented by who was interested in each product. Not only does this give you more information on who’s interested in what but you can also follow up with future campaigns based on these interests. In our next article, we’ll be looking at how an email’s design can impact its deliverability. Follow us, subscribe and don’t miss out! Help others learn more about email marketing best practices by sharing on social media and spreading the word. And, if you have any questions for us, just leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you. Enjoy learning with Benchmark!


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How Do Abuse Complaints Affect Your Newsletter’s Deliverability?

How Do Abuse Complaints Affect Your Newsletter’s Deliverability?

Practical Marketer • April 5, 2017

In previous articles, we’ve had a look at the definition of deliverability, key factors and the advantages of having a Dedicated IP. In this installment, we’re going to have a look at abuse complaints as this is another aspect of email marketing that, when not dealt with correctly, can negatively impact your sender reputation and, therefore, your deliverability. Unfortunately, it’s just as bad to be marked as spam as it is to hit spam traps. But, what is an abuse complaint? If you’re using Benchmark, an abuse complaint can come from one of two sources: When a client marks an email as spam using the button in their inbox. This is the most serious of the two because it’s Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo etc. who will receive the complaint and take measures against your emails. Via Benchmark’s “Report Abuse” button. If the recipient chooses to complain via this button, Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo etc. don’t receive the complaint and this gives us time to resolve the issue. This doesn’t mean that it’s not serious, though. At Benchmark, we take abuse complaints very seriously and, while we will work with you to help you resolve the issue, if any client has a ratio of abuse complaints that\'s over 0.05%, their account will be terminated. To put this in perspective, this means we allow one abuse complaint per 2000 emails sent. What gets my emails marked as spam? This is a very good question. Many factors may be behind your recipient marking you as spam. For example: The database that you’re using is too old. A database being old may mean that the information that you’re sending is no longer relevant or they don’t remember signing up to your emails. The information that you’re sending isn’t of interest to your subscribers so they incorrectly mark you as spam instead of unsubscribing. You’re sending too many emails and your recipients are tired of receiving them. If you think that this could be the case, it’s time to stop and review your strategy. You’re sending emails to people that haven’t opted-in. This isn’t only bad email marketing practice but it’s also illegal and can have consequences that are much more far-reaching than bad campaign results. You’re sending content to people that had requested/expected information about something else when they signed up. For example, if they signed up to receive a webinar series on carpentry, don’t send them one on haute cuisine. People will be happy to receive more information related to what they originally signed up for but not offers for other things. The recipient was simply having a bad day and decided they weren’t interested in your email so marked you as spam.  It hardly happens but you’ll learn more on resolving this below. You’ll see now then that there are various factors that can be behind an abuse complaint and, while this isn’t intended to be an exhaustive list, you must ask yourself if you’re guilty of any of the above because your abuse complaint ratio is something that you can control. At Benchmark, when you send a campaign, you can see if you receive an abuse complaint in your reports: Don’t forget though that you can only control your abuse complaints if you add the “Report Abuse” link to your campaign. If you don’t use this link, the recipient will only be able to complain directly to their inbox provider and this will seriously damage your sender reputation. How can I avoid being marked as spam? We’ve already seen some of the reasons behind why we might get labeled as spam so let’s have a look at some possible solutions: If your database is old, send only to those that open your emails. Why pay for the big plan if it’s not being effective? We often think that what we’re sending is very interesting and relevant but, are you completely sure? Take a minute now to go and have a look at your last campaign’s click-through rate. Are you satisfied? If you’re not, consider changing your content so that it really is something that provokes engagement from your subscribers. Tip: Our “click heat maps” within your email reports can give you some valuable insights into the type of content that your recipients are interested in. Create a strategy around the emails you send. Consider your content and the best time and day to send that particular message. Also, don’t ever send the same content twice in the same week. Less is more. Don’t send spam. Make sure that you’re only sending to people who have opted in to receiving news from you. Segment your clients by the type of content that they want to receive. This will boost relevancy. If a recipient has marked you as spam, review your reports and contact them personally to find out why they did it and understand what actions you need to take. Final recommendations Remember to always add our “Report Abuse” link to your emails Keep an eye on your reports Listen to your recipients and learn from their actions In our next article, we’ll be discussing why it’s important to keep your lists up to date. Follow us, subscribe and don’t miss out! Help others learn more about email marketing best practices by sharing on social media and spreading the word. And, if you have any questions for us, just leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you. Enjoy learning with Benchmark Email!  


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The 5 Factors That Affect Your Newsletter’s Deliverability

The 5 Factors That Affect Your Newsletter’s Deliverability

Practical Marketer • March 29, 2017

You can spend hours planning and creating the perfect newsletter, tweaking it until you’re sure that it’s going to help bring in new clients and boost profits, but it doesn’t matter how well-thought-out or well-designed it is: if it doesn’t get to your recipients, it won’t fulfill your objectives. This is why working to ensure that the email arrives in the inbox needs to be your number one priority. Deliverability is all about getting to the inbox and avoiding the spam folder. Basically, If you don’t look after your deliverability and it takes a turn for the worse, it’s likely that your emails will end up in spam. The consequence of this is usually that your recipients will start to think of you as “that company that sends spam”. This isn’t only a problem for your marketing but it can also bring with it legal problems, being added to a blacklist or your account being permanently blocked. Ignoring deliverability, or not actively working to improve or maintain it, is not an option for anyone working in email marketing. There are 5 factors that can affect a campaign’s deliverability. Each one needs to be considered and optimised, as deliverability can be negatively impacted by just one of them going awry. The Email Marketing Manager   The person that decides the email campaign’s content. They’ll choose the subject line, the layout of images, text etc. and they’ll also have the final word on how many emails to send and when. They’re responsible for ensuring that the list is up-to-date, correct and cleansed of old addresses that no longer exist, spam traps and generic email addresses. Sender domain By sender, we mean the name, the address and the domain used to send the campaign. While the name and address have the biggest impact on whether the email gets opened or not, the domain can be key to guaranteeing good deliverability as it’s the first thing that the different organisations and filters will analyse to classify the newsletter. The domain’s reputation and not having been classified as spam previously is essential for the success of your campaign. As a general rule, it’s recommended that you don’t use a public domain like Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail. Instead, opt to use a private domain that in itself doesn’t contain expressions that can be interpreted as spammy. You also need to make sure that it’s not on any blacklists. Configuring the SPF record that we provide is also good practice as it helps prove that we have permission to send campaigns on your behalf. No excuses! It’s quick, easy and free to do so if you’re not sure how, please contact your Benchmark representative who will be happy to assist you. Email Marketing Platform The platform you choose has a decisive impact on deliverability. It must have a good infrastructure for sending bulk email campaigns and it should also provide statistics on each one you send. Check to see if they can show you how many abuse complaints,  bounces, clicks etc. you receive as this information will help you optimise your database and strategy for upcoming campaigns. It’s also useful if they have good customer service available in case you need it. The Recipient The person that receives your email also has a relevant part to play in your deliverability as it’s them that has the power to configure their account’s anti-spam filter. Not only this but their inbox will learn from and monitor their actions. Do they open your emails? Do they interact with them? Do they mark them as spam? The ISP will learn and filter the emails accordingly. Suggest to your recipients that they whitelist you and that they remove your emails from spam if they find you there. Inbox filters will learn that you are a good sender this way. It’s also important that the recipient interacts with our emails and this can only be achieved with relevant content and thoughtful design. Don’t forget either that, even before they open the email, the subject line has to win them over so take the time to think about it and make it a good, eye-catching, non-spammy one. You can also use our Targeted Emailing tool to create segments of, and target, clients based on their open and click behaviour. Additionally, Inbox Checkers are another great way of double-checking your campaign before it gets sent out. Use them to see what your email will look like on different devices and browsers and avoid surprises when you’ve already sent out the campaign. Spam filters This is who decides whether the recipient receives the email or not. We don’t have control over this but it will analyse the factors that we’ve been looking at in this article. Now we’ve seen the 5 main actors in the email marketing process, consider how your deliverability is being influenced by each one and be sure to optimise each area for campaign success. Did you like this article? Have you spotted any areas of your email marketing deliverability that you can improve? This is the third article from our brand new deliverability series. Next up... How abuse complaints affect your deliverability. Follow us, subscribe and don’t miss out! Help others learn more about email marketing best practices by sharing on social media and spreading the word. And, if you have any questions for us, just leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you. Enjoy learning with Benchmark Email!


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