Focusing on engagement: What does that really mean?


One of my standard bits of advice when it comes to fixing deliverability woes (spam folder placement, in particular) is that a sender "pull back and focus on engagement." What does that really mean? Let me explain.

The specifics can and will vary, but here's a general overview of what I'm talking about.

  1. Stop sending to your entire email universe. Temporarily stop sending to some subscribers.
  2. Suppress subscribers who have not shown an indication of "life" in the past X days. By "no indication of life" I mean "no click or open activity." What to use for X varies based on industry or subscriber base but could be anywhere from 15 to 180 days. When in doubt, start at 60 days. Meaning, temporarily stop sending mail to people who have not opened or clicked any email from you in the past sixty days.
  3. Keep this up for three to five weeks of regular sending. No sending to the unengaged segment. This is what boosts your engagement metrics back up (and does so in a way that helps your inbox placement).
  4. After things are better, it's time to decide what to do with that segment you've been suppressing. I'd love it if you'd just throw it out, but I realize that's a bitter pill to swallow. Instead, let's apply some strategy. Perhaps re-introduce some part of this segment every week. Starting with newest, working your way toward oldest. Introduce a chunk a week, and monitor. If you start to see spam folder issues again, maybe you're learning that this is the universe telling you that data beyond that age is just not mailable; continuing to go deeper into that segment is going to bring back inbox woes.

What of Apple MPP? If you've been paying attention, you know that Apple's MPP functionality has impeded open detection throughout most of 2022. While it does inflate opens, it still works "good enough" when it comes to identifying whom to suppress due to lack of activity. Your "inactives segment" will be a bit imperfect; it won't contain ALL of your inactives -- some of them are mixed into the noise of the Apple MPP "false opens" -- but overall, this data will be good enough to help you mitigate inbox placement issues.

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