Does the mail always get through?

Boarded up post box, by Ellie Brown.

After putting a tonne of effort into producing an email newsletter we want absolutely everyone to read it.

There’s always a nagging doubt that the latest bulletin has been snagged somewhere. Marked as spam. Banished unread.

To avoid this cruel fate it’s worth double checking that any email blasts you prepare can get through.

Before sharing a few tips and resources, can I offer some sources of consolation.

You can get an idea of whether people are receiving a newsletter by looking at open rates (though only if you are using an email service providers like Campaign Monitor, MailChimp, et al). If the open rate is zero, you’ve got a problem. If it’s 25% or higher you’re doing pretty good.

Statistics in web analytics packages, such as Google Analytics, show whether people are clicking on links to your website in an email newsletter. If you can see this happening, then messages are getting through.

If people follow up with bouquets and, heaven forbid, brickbats, or ask questions, you know that not only is the content getting through but people are actually reading it. This is something the open rate alone can’t tell you.

According to a new training course on email newsletters, content within an email newsletter causes just 17% of spam triggers. The remaining 83% of triggers arise from the technical layer of email distribution.

These ‘invisible’ barriers to delivery are related to the trust worthiness of your domain, and the digital service from which your email is sent from. If you or your email service provider are tarred with a spam brush, this is hard to shake.

So it’s best to stick with reputable services and don’t get marked as spam in the first place. Idealware’s article on “Understanding and Improving Email Deliverability” covers this in depth. MailChimp, who are not exactly unbiased, also have some helpful and detailed guidance, see “Avoiding the spam filters”.

The more your content looks like spam, so it will be treated like it. To avoid being a spam look a like, here are tips that offer:

  • Send high quality content, with valid coding, alt-text and correct grammar
  • Use more words than images
  • Punctuate and format in a professional way. Avoid SOLID CAPS, big fonts, !!!, $$$, etc
  • Use a clear, accurate headline and don’t repeat words
  • Avoid spammy words like cheap, buy, offer, free, win… But don’t worry too much: vocabulary is a minor concern.

Encouraging subscribers to add your email to an address book and to whitelist your messages can also help.

Now, to get people actually engaging in your enewsletters, that is another story altogether. As the folk at make plainly clear, it’s about the basics of any effective communication: writing compelling content and refining this based on feedback from your audience.

Photo credit: Ellie Brown.