Inbox placement. It’s the best and most accurate way for email marketers to measure the percentage of mail that actually makes it into the inbox. High inbox placement is one of the overarching goals in the world of email marketing because it means more of your subscribers are receiving your mail—which also means a potentially higher return on investment.
You may be asking yourself how to not only reach the inbox but how do you maintain high inbox placement in an ever-changing email environment? Subscribers may engage with your email one day and then complain about your message the next day. There are tons of recommendations for keeping your brand’s inbox placement high, but here are five top recommendations to keeping your inbox placement steady.
Before we get started… You may be thinking, “Esther, don’t you mean delivery rate?” There is actually a very big difference between delivery rate and inbox placement. According to Return Path’s Ultimate Guide to Email Deliverability, delivery rate is “calculated by dividing the volume of emails delivered by the volume of emails sent.” The guide continues by stating, “delivered doesn’t necessarily mean your email hit the inbox—just that it wasn’t bounced or rejected.” This means that “delivered” mail could have hit the spam folder or a different folder in the subscriber’s mailbox. Inbox placement is looking at the amount of mail that made it into the actual subscriber inbox. This distinction is important to note when talking about inbox placement vs. delivery rate.
1. Keep It Clean
A list that’s free of inactive email addresses is incredibly important to keeping your brand’s inbox placement rate from dropping. Removing hard bounces shows mailbox providers that you are paying attention to the bounce codes you receive and processing them accordingly. Removing hard bounces not only shows that you are keeping your list clean but also helps you avoid running into spam traps. Hitting spam traps raises a red flag to mailbox providers because it shows that you are not removing old email addresses from your send list. Keeping your list clean of old email addresses shows that you are a responsible sender. Mailbox providers LOVE responsible senders and place messages from great senders in the inbox.
2. Keep It Real
And by “keep it real,” I mean keep it relevant. You’ve probably heard the saying, “The only constant is change.” This is also true when it comes to your clients and their email needs. One day your subscribers are highly engaged with your mail, but their needs may change. It is important to know your subscribers so that your mail will stay relevant to them. Relevant content helps to reduce complaints by keeping your subscribers engaged and away from the “This is Spam” button.
It can be incredibly challenging to keep up with your subscribers and their interests. One way to ensure you’re giving them what they want is by creating a preference center. (An example is shown below.) Preference centers allow your subscribers to choose the type and frequency of email they receive from you. Giving your clients the freedom to determine what they receive (and when) will help keep your clients happy and your inbox placement high. This will also keep your complaints down. In the end, everyone wins!
3. Keep It Consistent
Email frequency is an important component to consistent inbox placement. Sending an increased number of emails can result in a drop in inbox placement, due to spam complaints from subscribers. For subscribers who are less engaged with your mail, an increase in email frequency is just more noise in their inbox. For subscribers who are engaged with your mail, an increase in mail could end up becoming noise as well. In order to keep the peace with your subscribers it is important to have a consistent volume of mail. Having a preference center would also be a great way to have your subscribers set the amount of mail they would like to receive and set their own expectations.
If you decide to increase your frequency, a great way to see how your engaged subscribers will react to this new frequency is by testing the new frequency before applying this to the entire subscriber list. By increasing send frequency for only a small segment of your list, you will get a better idea of how the rest of your subscriber list will react. This will also give you an opportunity to make any changes before rolling the frequency increase out to the rest of your subscriber list.
4. Keep It Honest
Setting appropriate expectations and following through on what you’ve promised is a good way to keep your inbox placement high. A preference center (described above) is one way to set the stage for subscribers, but it’s not the only way. Another effective technique is to send a welcome email after a subscriber signs up for your program. In the welcome email, you can remind the subscriber that they signed up for your emails, and re-confirm what they will be receiving from you. In the example on the right, Athleta describes the type of emails the subscriber will now receive. I advise taking this one step farther by letting the reader know how often they should expect to hear from you. Transparency and setting expectations for your subscribers can make an impact on your inbox placement.
5. Keep It Awesome
Your subscribers’ overall experience is a significant factor in whether they stay engaged with your brand. Think back to the time you tried a restaurant for the first time. You probably made mental notes about the food, atmosphere, service, and overall impression of the restaurant. The same is true your subscribers and their overall experience with your marketing program. Creating email campaigns your clients are able to relate to and enjoy will keep them coming back for more, from engaging subject lines to relevant and creative copy. Basically, it comes down to knowing your subscribers. Understand what is happening in their world helps you to remain a part of it.
High inbox placement is a goal for every email marketing program. Following these five tips will help you to reach this important goal. Good luck!