As the top Internet Service Providers (ISPs) continue to crack down on companies for what they deem to be “spamming”, protecting and improving your email sending reputation is becoming increasingly challenging for businesses to keep up with.

So what can you do to protect and improve your sending reputation, and ensure you are not labeled a spammer by these ISPs? Here are five tactics you can immediately adopt into your email marketing strategy.

  1. Develop content your audience is interested in

    It should be no surprise at this point that the quality of the content you are sending to your audience is extremely important. You want to send content that addresses their problems and offers a viable solution. Regularly pushing out content like this does wonders for your email sending reputation. The better your email open rate, the more you become a trusted sender in the eyes of the ISPs. A higher sending reputation allows you to reach other people in your audience’s inboxes who have tougher email restrictions (for example, .edu domains) than simply avoiding a promotions tab (Gmail) or worse… their spam folder!

  2. Stop emailing people who don’t open your emails

    A problem we have seen for too long is companies emailing the same message to their entire audience regardless of their past engagement with previous emails. This email marketing approach does not work. More importantly, doing this can damage your sending reputation temporarily or even permanently. If you haven’t already you need to start segmenting your contact lists. Here’s a few baseline segments we generally start with:

    A) Opened an email within the last 3 months (Engaged)
    B) Did not open an email within the last 3-6 months (Somewhat engaged)
    C) Have never opened an email over the last 6-12 months (Not engaged)

    Any contact that falls into the “not engaged” segment should be removed from your marketing lists entirely. It’s clear the contact is not interested in your content and continuing to email them risks making you look like a spammer, which works against your email sending reputation.

    For the top two segments, you should have different strategies in place for both. For the first segment, we recommend emailing this list first as they are likely to generate the highest open rate which will continue to improve your sending reputation. This second segment’s performance is telling you that they are losing interest in what you have to say or offer. Diving deeper into what their interests and needs are and A/B testing subject titles with some personalization should help you re-engage them. Consider developing a special offer or survey for this audience. As soon as you have gotten any of these contacts to open this email, they instantly become part of that first segment again and are working for your reputation, not against it. And as a bonus, they’ll be one step closer to being more engaged with your content.

  3. Email your audience on a regular basis

    Emailing your audience on a frequent basis is a good thing. At the very least you should be engaging with your contacts on a bi-weekly basis. As long as the content is good and addresses your audience’s interests and needs, you should not be afraid to email them week in and week out. Get creative with subject titles using A/B tests, try different time of day sends, and think of different ways to display your content (text, graphics or a combination, etc.). You can analyze the performance of these tests and determine what your audience likes the most until you have a template and process that you can trust to deliver results on a regular basis.

  4. Avoid spammy words or phrases in your content

    Certain words and phrases can trigger spam alerts so be careful with the language you are using in the content of your emails and subject titles. One specific word that regularly triggers spam alerts is “free”, so be aware of that when offering something valuable to your contact list. Alternative words such as “complimentary” have proven to significantly help improve open rates with engaged and somewhat engaged audience members.

    For a full list of words and phrases to avoid click here.

  5. Let your audience choose what they want to receive from you

    One of the best things you can do for your sending reputation and audience engagement is setting up a Subscription Management Center. Give your contacts more than the basic “Would you like to continue to receive emails from us?”. That simple yes or no question is going to cost you far too many audience members and with the Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL) making it even harder to grow your email audience (see the final paragraph), that is the last thing you need.

    You need to break your content down into 3-4 categories that contacts can subscribe to and unsubscribe from. Some basic categories are news & industry updates, promotions, events & webinars, and general newsletter. Dividing your content up this way in a Subscription Management Center allows your audience to choose what they want to receive from your organization. It also shows your audience that you have a variety of content to offer. Not only that it will significantly reduce the number of contacts unsubscribing from everything, it should also help increase your open rates while maintaining your sending reputation.