The Email Problems You Never Knew You Had!
Email is still the top medium for keeping in touch with your users and customers. Thanks to the huge number of junk emails that are being filtered out by email service providers, getting your legitimate messages into inboxes these days is a big challenge. Understanding those challenges and acting upon them should be part of your overall marketing strategy. Read on, and chances are, your eyes will be opened.
1. Sender Reputation
The IP address your message is being sent from has the largest impact on whether your message will wind-up in the inbox or in spam, or even being rejected or deleted outright.
Cold IP addresses, that is nodes that have not been used enough or at all to send email, are deemed untrustworthy. A high percentage of spam emails come through “zero reputation” IP addresses, just so you understand that dynamic. Email from such IPs will tend to wind-up in recipients’ bulk or spam folder or being severely delayed.
IP addresses that have been previously associated with messages that recipients declared as spam will have their “sender score” impacted and if enough people made that assessment, the messages could wind-up being blocked or silently rejected (they’re accepted but deleted, not delivered).
If an IP was reported to any blacklist as the source of spam, a large number of receiving mail servers will block any connection attempt from that IP, many of them dragging the connection on purpose before timing out, which can wreak havoc on spammers but often winds-up punishing legitimate senders.
What applies to sender IPs also applies to sender addresses. So if email@example.com has been associated with spam or is blacklisted, any message from it will be treated with disdain!
By sender address, we mean the email used in the dialog between mail servers, which may differ from the emails used in message headers, such as in the From and Reply-To headers..
2. Sender Identifying Headers
Your server-sent messages should always have the headers which can be verified via a DNS query to ascertain that the message sender info isn’t forged. These include DKIM, SPF, and DMARC. If any of these are missing, the odds are that your emails will wind-up in spam. Their presence, however, does not guarantee delivery to the inbox.
3. Message Subject and Content
A large number of receiving mail servers will pass your message’s subject and content through a “Bayesian” filter which will score your message’s probability of being spam based on the words and expressions contained within. For instance, words like “ultimate” and “free” score heavily as spammy words.
Any links within your message that have a domain that’s different from the domain you’re sending from will be treated suspiciously. So, for example, if your message is from firstname.lastname@example.org and your message body contains a link to https://notmydomain.com, this will score poorly. Even worse are links that redirect, such as tracking links.
5. Real Sender address
A number of email services will be set-up to actually check if the sender address actually exists, by connecting to a mail server (MX) listed for its domain via a DNS lookup. If the server on the other end answers that the address doesn’t exist or rejects the request, or if there’s no connection made, the messages coming from that address will very likely be rejected.
Getting Inbound Email Reliably Is Also Critical
Many businesses don’t realize they’re losing customers because they’re not getting their emails or potential customers aren’t getting their replies or not trusting their identity. This happens because businesses assume email isn’t critical when in fact it absolutely is…
1. Use your corporate domain and avoid generic usernames
This is the obvious one and hopefully you know this already, but you should be sending and receiving email using a corporate address containing your domain. email@example.com just doesn’t look professional whereas firstname.lastname@example.org does!
That said, avoid using subdomains like mail.mydomain.com or generic usernames like “info”. It looks better if you use your root company domain and use your first or your first and last name, or your initial and last name for the username part of your address. There’s another reason than just aesthetics for not using generic email addresses: spammers! Spammers know about “info”, “sales”,”admin” and other standard usernames and will spam the heck out of them!
2. Don’t use your hosting service’s mail server
Just about every web hosting service boasts about unlimited or a generous number of mailboxes, but you should not be using them either for sending or receiving email. Their mail servers dedicated to their hosted customers will likely not be a large farm and will be configured to handle large volumes on minimal resources. What this usually means is that incoming connections will be staggered, resulting in many sender mail servers timing out and retrying later. You’ll therefore be getting your important messages late or maybe not at all. On the flip side, sending emails out through their mail servers can also be delayed through queuing if volumes from all hosted customers collectively are high. Self hosted email servers may perform better but few have the sophistication to set them up properly and could inadvertently be dangerous (an open relay for instance)
3. Use one of the major email providers instead
Google’s Gsuite, Microsoft Exchange and other major email service providers can host your domain’s email. Unlike your hosting company, they have 100,000s of mail servers and your incoming mail will arrive as soon as it’s sent. Additionally, these services provide strong and reliable spam filters whereas your hosting service’s will let a lot of junk through and possibly block good mail. Sending your corporate email through these providers will also insure your messages get into the recipient’s inbox due to their strong sender reputation, but you shouldn’t use them to send transactional or other computer generated messages. This would be a violation of their terms of service and will likely get your account blocked. For non-human originated emails, you should use services like Mailchimp (newsletters), Mailgun and Sendgrid, to name a few.
4. Always have a signature
A plain corporate message will not impress your customers. Take the time to create an attractive HTML footer, or signature as it’s known, that includes your company logo and contact numbers and website URL.
Not all email software provides the means to autromatically append your signature to every message you sent, but among the better known ones, Outlook and Thunderbird do. Switch to using one of those if your current program doesn’t allow signatures!