the doctor is in

Come on in and sit down. You look a little peaked — what seems to be the problem? Are your open rates fatigued and flagging? Is your response rate sadly drooping? Are you having anxiety nightmares about your precious emails being marked as “SPAM”?

If you or someone you love is having deliverability issues, you’ve come to the right place. Let the Deliverability Doctor help.

The Diagnosis

As spammers have become more sophisticated, so have anti-spam prevention measures. Email Service Providers (ESP) – a.k.a. folks like Gmail, AOL, and Yahoo! – have upped their game. They’re not just blacklisting terms like v!agr@ and “FREE!!!!!”. They’ve turned their users into an army of spam-spotting spies.

Maybe people are directly marking your messages as spam. Or deleting them without reading them. Or just completely ignoring every message you send. It’s all bad news, because here’s the deal: if people aren’t opening your emails and aren’t clicking your links, email clients are going to assume you’re sending them junk.

Of course, I know you’re not sending junk. Your emails are magnificent. But if you’re worried about lackluster deliverability, how can you tell if deliverability deficiency is your diagnosis?

Here’s a hint.

Its not lupus Its never lupus

Even Dr. House will tell you there’s no quick and easy failsafe way to diagnose whether your emails are going to inbox paradise or straight into spam purgatory. However, while you can’t directly measure deliverability, you can indirectly take your temperature by looking at open rates divvied up by email domain (the bit that comes after the @ symbol) for any domain that makes up a significant part of your list. Pull data for 5-10 messages you’ve sent to your full list.

Next, compare open rates for each individual domain. You should see a pattern – maybe certain domains are always higher, and some are always lower, but they should move in a pack, with popular emails boosting opens across the board, and duds sinking them. But if you see open rates plunge for just one domain only occasionally – then yep. You’ve got deliverability problems.

deliverability heatmap

Bingo. It’s like a CAT scan for deliverability trouble.

The Treatment

Unfortunately, there’s no easy cure for deliverability problems. Most domains keep the details of their spam filters locked down and top secret. But there is good news: with careful management and healthy habits, the symptoms can be minimized.

    1) First off, suppress your inactives. Find the people on your list who don’t interact with your emails and stop sending them messages. Seriously. Abandoned or fake accounts, people who’ve lost interest — they’re not helping you. If they haven’t opened or clicked an email or interacted with you in some way in the past year, it’s over. Move on. If things gets really bad, consider shortening that span to 10 months, or even 8.

    2) Next, clean up your code! Gmail – a heavyweight in the email world, the source of many a deliverability headache – specifically lists making your code compliant to a standard called w3c as a way to improve your deliverability. You (or your IT gal) can use a w3c code validator like this one to find anywhere your email fails the standards and clean it up.

    3) Then, check your sender authentication protocols. Here’s where you DEFINITELY want to call in IT, but sender authentication protocols are basically the passcode that says “Hey, it’s cool. is with me.” If they’re not in place, your email sender fails the test, and your email goes straight to spam. You don’t even get to pass GO, and you definitely don’t get $200.

    4) Finally, send good, interesting emails. Not just what YOU think is interesting – what your readers are interested in. Set internal benchmarks for email metrics. Segment your list and match content with audience. Yes, you have heard this before – but it really, really matters!

Follow my fast-acting tips and you’ll be seeing healthier deliverability in no time.

Caution: Side effects may include higher open rates, improved response, and more bang for your buck.

And don’t forget to check back in here with the Deliverability Doctor for your follow-up appointment and more in-depth, long-term deliverability treatments!