Good Advice for Senders

Hey email senders, looking for some good advice? Here's a few things you should do or not do, if you want to walk on the right side of the line and enjoy email delivery success.

Email marketing myths which should have died years ago: using "ADV:" in your subject line. That bill never even passed. It's true. If you think you have to put ADV: in your subject line, what you're doing is wrong on many different levels, and suggests that you're not all that familiar with CAN-SPAM or permission best practices.

Whatever you do, don't use Microsoft Word-generated HTML in your email. Just don't -- trust me on this one. Unless you love really complex content filtering issues that are hard to resolve. Word generates bloated and weird HTML code; it doesn't render well in a lot of instances, and you'll regret it. Simple is better when generating HTML code for use in emails.

A list seller: "We offer only the finest data..." Now if only email deliverability was as easy as postal deliverability... If somebody says they have a list for sale, run away screaming. Getting your mail delivered successfully depends on whether or not recipients recognize your mail and want to hear from you. A bought list means you fail both of those tests.

Focusing on "positve and negative response" when talking to clients about delivery, and focusing less on complaints. Do people open and click on your email messages? Keeping complaints low isn't always enough. People have to care about your emails. Big ISPs can tell whether or not your subscribers care about your mail. If they don't care, it is more likely to be relegated to the spam folder.

Old, inactive recipients are far more likely to mark your email as spam than those who have clicked or opened recently. If somebody hasn't heard from you in more than 18 months, that relationship is dead. Let it go. If you don't, you're going to garner large numbers of spam complaints and deliverability issues will follow.

Disclosure and choice are the two most critical elements of any email signup process. Preventing confusion prevents spam complaints. It's that simple. Tell people what they're signing up for. Make sure they can't 'accidentally' end up on your list. They won't “just unsubscribe” – they'll instead report your mail as spam and get you blocked.

There's no "gaming" spam filters at the big ISPs anymore, no specific set of tactical rules to follow that'll magically give you delivery. It's true – whatever loopholes once existed at ISPs are long gone or closing fast. (And why would you ever want to base what you're doing on exploiting a spam filtering loophole? Do you WANT to be sued?) And technology alone doesn't get your mail delivered. Any good ESP or list management tool helps you manage bounces and complaints. Helps you manage rate limits and good neighbor tables. But all of that is for naught if the mail is unwanted. ISPs are smart and gleefully block millions of unwanted messages daily. The path to success is a simple one; make sure that mail is wanted.

Where did I get all this advice? From my friend Evan Burke's Twitter stream. He's a smart guy-- you should follow him, and not just because he occasionally links to my blog posts.

(Everything in bold is from Evan's Twitter stream; everything in regular type is my own commentary.)
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