Email Optimization: Deliverability and Testing

October 2, 2016 by Deepak Bisht

“Oh, man! I have created such an excellent email copy. This story is definitely going to sell.”
But, wait! Have you worked on optimizing your email? Is it even going to reach your target personas? Here’s a recent stat:

The average inbox placement rate for America was only 73% in 2015: Return Path

So, if 100 emails were sent only 73 reached the inbox.

You have a great product/service/prospect in hand and you have done your research. You have crafted a great story, which includes the customer pain points, their struggle, and seamlessly connects that with your product as the solution. But before sending your email, you must ensure that your email is optimized for deliverability. After all, a story does no good if it never reaches your target persona.

Optimizing Deliverability

So, what you should do to optimize your email campaigns for deliverability? You need to look after each and every element that affects deliverability. Let’s find out about these elements and how you can sort them out to improve your email deliverability.

To optimize your email deliverability you only need to avoid bounces. But, that’s easier said than done.

Broadly, there are two types of bounces: Hard Bounce and Soft Bounce. A hard bounce is a permanent failure to deliver an email, whereas a soft bounce is a temporary failure which might or might not get resolved.

You can deal with bounces in the following manner:

  1. List Assessment: You should assess your database at regular intervals to keep it fresh. According to Hubspot, every year, 25% of your database decays. Mailing to addresses which no longer exists will only increase your hard bounces.
  2. Content Bounces: At times, the content of your email sounds deceiving and it raises the alarm in the recipient’s’ email clients,  to not allow your email into the inbox. So you need to be careful with the content of your email. Use a genuine tone and language throughout the email to avoid this soft bounce.
  3. List Segmentation: If you really think that each of your emails holds value for each of your buyer persona, then you are either really self-obsessed or ignoring design best practices by putting too much content in your emails. Remember that content only makes sense if it is presented in the right context.

    Based on your buyer personas and their respective journeys, you should segment your lists and run specific campaigns for each list. Segmenting your list will ensure that the content you send is valuable for the recipients and they will not mark you as spam or unsubscribe from the list. Low spam complaints improve your reputation as a sender and help you avoid reputation bounces.
  4. Say ‘No’ to Purchased Lists: No matter how lucrative these lists look, the truth is that no one likes to hear from an unknown entity. You might feel good about sending an email to 10,000 people, but you don’t see that how many of them will be marking you as spam. This affects your reputation in the long run and hampers your deliverability to even genuine subscribers.

Once you analyze yourself on all the above parameters, you will know whether that great story which you have created, keeping email the best practices in mind, is ready to roll or not.

Email Testing

Because you have crafted such a great story, you want to get the maximum mileage out of it. You decide to A/B test your email, but you are not sure what to test.  How do you have a test that gives you meaningful insights?
Let’s take a look at the things which you should not do while designing a test for your emails:

  1. A/B/C/D/X/Y/Z Testing: Yes, most people try to test a lot of elements in one go. In the variations they create, everything from the subject line to the CTA button text will be different. The result is that you know which email you should send to the entire list but you still don’t know why it worked. You are in the same pre-testing dilemma. So, you’ll never know about the generic elements (like a certain CTA button color or CTA text), which you can apply to similar emails in future. Hence, you’ll have to start all over again the next time. 

Test one and only one element at a time.

  1. Small sample size: Companies, especially the newer ones who don’t have long email lists, typically commit this mistake. By definition, your sample size is a representation of your population. So, a small sample is not a close representation of your population, which makes the results of testing unreliable. The ideal size of a sample depends on your target market size and the size of your email list but, you should always try to include as many people as possible in your samples.

Anything above 1000 contacts in each sample is a good representation.

  1. Inappropriate definition of Success: Companies often fail to assign the right metrics for success. So, a company that wants people to buy its products might assign open rates as a metric of success, instead of click-through rates (CTR). When they A/B test, the email with a better open rate wins even if its CTR is lower. As a result, the ultimate goal of selling the product is hampered.

Think of your ultimate goal from the email and define your success metrics accordingly.

Sometimes, we tend to ignore optimal test conditions, which affect the test results and the long-term improvements of our email marketing campaigns. Here are a few conditions which you must always take care of:

  • Continuous testing of email campaigns: It is important to adopt email testing as a continuous process instead of a one-time thing. With a couple of tests, you cannot reach a concrete conclusion. Also with time, the taste, preferences, and priorities of your target list change. Continuous testing is the only way by which you can identify such changes and keep up with them.
  • Simultaneous testing of variants: Time plays an important role while testing your emails. You must send both versions of your email to your test lists at the same time. Otherwise, you make your test results skewed as there are favorable and unfavorable times for sending emails.
  • Documenting learnings: Unlike your school tests which you need to clear to get good grades, email tests are for learning. It is advisable to document your learnings as you cannot remember everything. Also, documenting makes sharing easier with the team which reduces the learning time for a new team member.  

So that’s all we got to say about email optimization.

If you are looking for email marketing as part of your inbound marketing efforts, HubSpot is one of the best available platforms in the market.

And if you think we missed out on something, then do let us know in the comments. Until next time, Happy Emailing!