Design emails for deliverability

Learn how to apply deliverability best practices to your email deliveries.

Welcome to Adobe Campaign. In this module, we will be looking at designing emails for deliverability. By the end of this module you will learn how to apply deliverability best practices.
Email deliverability refers to a set of characteristics that determine a messages ability to reach each destination without bouncing or being marked as spam and arriving in a short time with the expected quality in terms of content and format. Deliverability problems are generally linked to measures of protection against spam implemented by both internet service providers and mail server administrators.
To optimize the deliverability of your Adobe Campaign emails we recommend following these characteristics of good deliverability. These characteristics fall into four main categories. Content quality is how you as a marketer ensure that the content you create is able to be delivered successfully to your recipients. Data quality refers to the origin of your recipients list and the care you take to curate it. Infrastructure refers to the setup and tools used to manage deliverability. And finally reputation, this is something more nuanced that you can do yourself and ties in with the first three characteristics, meaning if you’re successful in the first three your reputation will be successful as well. Once you properly understand these characteristics you’ll be able to form the foundation of a successful email deliverability program. Today, we will be going through the steps to ensure great deliverability. First let’s look at infrastructure. When beginning to send emails on a new platform, we have no reputation because we have no history of use. ISPs or internet service providers may become suspicious if we send a large volume of emails. We must have a strong team that manages a ramp up of email deliveries to prevent the platform from becoming an untrustworthy entity. This is known as IP warming and it can be done by progressively increasing the volume of emails sent over time to avoid being marked as spam. Generally speaking, it’s better to send content regularly in small batches rather than in large campaigns sporadically. Certain ISP’s check the validity of a sender’s address before accepting messages. A badly formed address may result in it being rejected by the receiving server. We can also fall back on third party tools such as SpamAssassin. SpamAssassin is a spam checking tool that can perform analysis to determine the risk of our mail being marked as spam.
Content quality is the next approach for good deliverability. In the email delivery editor, it is important to constantly preview your content to catch any issues before they become too large. While creating the content we can use the preview tab in the delivery editor to change the text personalization. This allows us to view how certain recipients will see this content.
The next step is to start sending proofs to preview what emails will look like in a recipient’s inbox on multiple email clients. Since we do not want our emails to look like spam we can use SpamAssassin’s anti-spam checker provided for us in the preview tab. This spam checker will highlight any risks in our emails and flag them for review. Poorly designed emails are likely to be marked as spam in our user’s email clients. The more link opens up a window that provides us with details of the analysis as well as a score. If the score is larger than the maximum authorized score it is more likely that our email will be marked as spam. The analysis also provides tips to reduce the score. Here we see a score of 2.2 has been assigned to the portion of the email because it only contains HTML content. To reduce this score it is best to provide text in multiple formats in our email.
If we crop HTML, we must provide a text version as well as some email clients only support text. It is best practice to create both versions when creating your content. Another option is to use the HTML to text button in the header menu. This will convert our HTML content to plain text. It may not translate perfectly so we may have to manually correct it. This is a great way to lower our spam score as most spammers do not provide a text version. In some instances minor HTML errors can be perceived as spam. We can run the HTML diagnostics tool which provides some warnings and error messages. We can manually correct these errors or use the auto-correct HTML issues button. If we use this option any changes made are permanent and there is no undo button. We can also use opt-out links and forms. When a message is analyzed, a typology rule checks whether or not an opt-out link has been included and generates a warning if it’s missing. We always want to include these types of links to provide the option to opt out or unsubscribe if recipients are not interested in our content. It’s best practice to not get in the way of recipients who want to opt out by requiring them to fill out fields such as their email address. The form should only have one validation button. The implementation of opt-out links can be simplified with the use of personalization blocks containing the link in all emails.
Another way to improve deliverability is to do quality control on the data we have on our recipients. Our initial marketing list of recipients may come from multiple sources, such as promotional material that requires a user signup or Facebook ads. Lists may also be purchased through third parties. It’s important to know who’s on these lists and verify the data as some lists may contain recipients who are not valid or are not a desirable target. We’ll want to employ best practices for quarantining recipients thus reducing our error rates and speeding up deliveries. A high rate of embedded addresses is also interpreted as a sign of spam. We want to avoid being on any ISP denial lists. We want to target active members as keeping them involved will build our reputation. To cleanse the data we want to remove profiles that have missing or incomplete data such as no email address or no contact number. There should always be a mandatory minimum for how much data is required for a profile to be deemed eligible for contact. We must also remove duplicate email addresses. Besides the benefit of not bogging down recipients with lots of duplicate marketing emails this can also cause a problem with unsubscription requests not being honored. If a recipient unsubscribes after receiving a message the duplicate profile will still be eligible for future messages. We will also want to remove malformed email addresses. This will help reduce unnecessary email bounce errors.
Adobe Campaign manages a list of quarantined addresses. These addresses are excluded during delivery analysis and are not targeted. There are a few ways in which an address can end up in quarantine including the address getting sent automatically when a delivery is made and experiencing hard or soft error. Addresses will also be quarantined when a customer opts out of an email. We can also manually add email addresses to the quarantine list such as so-called honeypot addresses. These addresses are deliberately created to catch spammers. If we send an email to one of these addresses we may be marked as a spammer, diminishing the reputation of our platform.
It is possible that we will have very little control on the data available to us. We can control our interactions with the customers such as targeting recipients who open our emails and click links. We can also target current subscribers or anyone who has made a recent purchase. It’s important to maintain a list of our active members while also avoiding improper communication by making sure our recipients subscribed intentionally. This can be achieved by implementing a double opt-in mechanism for post subscription confirmation. This helps to ensure that our recipients subscribed intentionally helping to confirm our active member list. -

Additional resources

Deliverability best practice guide