Imagine you are the marketing director of a DTC brand, and your email metrics are not looking good.
Open rates and click-through rates are low, spam complaint rates have shot up, and revenue and revenue per recipient numbers are down.
What should you do?
You could ramp up campaigns and optimize flows, do a bunch of A/B testing, or even expand your list size (maybe through a giveaway).
Or, you could focus on deliverability (and email delivery), and focus on the most critical email metric you might not be measuring: inbox placement rate.
Making email marketing disruption proof
If email is the engine that drives your marketing, email deliverability is the internal combustion chamber.
A simple way to understand its importance is to imagine Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but for email marketing metrics.
For most people, email marketing is essentially paying attention to the middle three layers of metrics (which are a mix of vanity and useful metrics).
- Email engagement metrics like open and click-through rate
- Conversion metrics like conversion rate or placed order rate.
- Revenue metrics like campaign/flow revenue or revenue/recipient.
And dashboards focus on these metrics, too: here’s a snippet from Klaviyo’s campaign performance report.
But focusing on these metrics is putting the cart before the horse: if your emails are not being seen, nothing else matters.
A lopsided focus on the middle three metrics also leaves you vulnerable to external disruptions:
- Apple deploys MPP, and suddenly, your open rates are completely unreliable.
- You get hit with a rash of spam complaints, and mailboxes/ISPs blacklist your domain and kneecap your domain rep.
- FB/Google changes their algorithms, sending you less traffic, and consequently, your list barely grows.
What happens if you consider email deliverability as the foundational element?
- Your emails will land in the inbox, boosting engagement metrics
- Your site gets more traffic, boosting revenue and sales along with getting an SEO bump
- Customer and user engagement and experience improve drastically as your emails work as intended instead of landing in spam.
However, deliverability is complex and incorporates multiple metrics, some more important than others.
What would be the most impactful one?
The prince of email deliverability metrics- IPR
This infographic gives a high-level overview of how an email winds up in the inbox.
Algorithms control each and every step of this process, and it’s the most technical aspect of email marketing.
Some of the factors that affect deliverability are:
- Sender authentication (SPF, DKIM, DMARC, etc.)
- Sender reputation
- Custom sending domains
- Shared or Dedicated IPs
- Spam scores
- MX records
- Linking your email to suspicious domains
- Recipient engagement (opens, clicks, spam reports, deletes, replies, starred, moved to tab, etc)
Your email deliverability can be affected even if one of these variables is out of whack.
In some cases, fixing the issue could take months (especially if you were to improve spam scores).
So how to make your life less complicated?
Focus on inbox placement rate.
Inbox placement rate (IPR) measures the percentage of your emails that reach your subscribers’ primary inboxes. If you are sending out 100 emails and only 75 lands in the inbox, your IPR is 75%.
Measuring and tracking IPR
The IPR is the truest measure of the effectiveness of email marketing because it signals how many of your emails are seen by your recipients.
But it’s a hard metric to measure because inboxes or email service providers will never give you the data.
You have to approach the problem in a roundabout way by measuring other data points.
Here are three approaches:
- Seedlist Testing: Seedlist testing involves sending your email to a list of different emails that make up all the major inboxes and then tracking how many of these emails land in the inbox. It also helps you with end-user experience and ensures your emails look good across multiple inboxes. However, seedlist testing doesn’t account for variables like actual subscriber engagement and behaviour.
- Content Filtering Testing: This method analyzes different elements of an email, like subject line, sender name, preview text, body text, images, links, attachments, etc to determine the possibility of it being blocked by spam filters. However, this method doesn’t account for list quality or sender reputation, take the results with a pinch of salt.
- Domain and IP Blacklist Testing: If ISPs or inbox providers block your domain or IP, your IPR will be zero. This issue can be crippling for your email marketing and is usually triggered if your domain reputation is wrecked if you don’t follow best practices.
You can use multiple tools to track your IPR. The following is a limited list:
- MX Tools
- Glock Apps
Inbox Placement Rate isn’t sexy, but it can make or break your email marketing strategy.
Improving this rate will never be a done deal because deliverability has so many moving parts. Hence, eternal vigilance is the name of the game.
If your deliverability is low, follow this roadmap:
- Fix your domain reputation (and IP reputation too, which is easier). Do the basics of authenticating your domain.
- Figure out a common sense segmentation strategy so that different people get emails based on their activity.
- Clean your list regularly, and sunset inactive emails.
- Encourage more engagement with your emails, either by soliciting a reply or by improving the click-through rates.
- Track your IPR.
- Rinse and repeat.
Most of all, make every email count. Treat every email as the one that will make or break your brand, because they do.