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Best Practices For Direct Email Campaigns

To improve email deliverability and ensure that your online reputation is intact, check out these email campaign best practices and resources.

When you run direct email campaigns, you want to do it in a way that maintains or improves your online reputation and avoids being blacklisted or marked as a spam. Making sure the email addresses you get are clean and deliverable with Versium’s Validate service is the first essential step to reaching people’s inboxes. What you do with that email afterwards is just as, if not more, important.

To improve email deliverability and ensure that your online reputation is intact, check out these email campaign best practices and resources.

Why Emails Don’t Reach the Inbox

First, it helps to know some of the reasons emails can bounce or be filtered out of the inbox. These best practices can help you avoid these roadblocks to your emails being delivered:

Note ⎯ Just because you don’t receive a bounce notification doesn’t mean an email has been delivered to someone’s email inbox. Many of these blocks don’t provide any notification

Email Best Practices

Now that you understand why emails are blocked, here are several ways you can increase the chances of your email getting through.

  1. Use double opt-in — Make sure the people you’re emailing have a way to opt out quickly.
  2. Feather in New Emails — Ramp up your sending slowly.
  3. Send Emails at a Slower Pace — Slow down how fast you’re sending emails overall.
  4. Maintain Your IP and Domain Reputation — Be proactive in protecting your online reputation.
  5. Work with Different Email Service Providers — Spread your email load across different email providers.
  6. Coordinate Email Campaigns with Other Departments — Make sure you’re not accidentally sending several emails to the same list.
  7. Be Mindful of your Keywords — Research words commonly included in ISP and personal spam filters and avoid them.
  8. Take Extra Care when Sending from your own IPs — All of these rules are doubly important when you’re sending from your own IP.
  9. Use only validated emails — Use an email validation service, validated email lead lists, or double opt-in to build your prospect lists. 

All of these ways are explained in more detail below.

Tip⎯ If you do not have experience in managing email campaigns, consider using a professional email marketing company to manage your company emails.

1. Use double opt-in

Make sure you are sending to people who want to hear from you. Allow people to opt-out and honor their requests immediately and gracefully. One major reason emails get marked as spam is because the email is unwanted and there’s not clear way to unsubscribe, or opt-out requests aren’t honored right away. Remember, you don’t gain anything from continuing to send emails to people who have opted out, and the best way to encourage them to opt back in in the future is to respect their choices now. See The real reasons why your emails are bouncing- The science behind it for more details about soft vs. hard bounces, and how to make sure you’re on top of your hard bounces.

2. Feather in new emails

When you purchase a new email list, it’s good practice to slowly feather in the new email addresses, and use engagement to inform which addresses to keep. Consider the following example:

You have a list of 1,000 email addresses that you’re currently sending to, and purchase a list of 6,000 new email addresses. Here’s how you might approach feathering in the new addresses.

  1. Feather in new addresses at a rate of 10% of your current list size. In this example, your first email, you add 100 new addresses.
  2. Measure engagement on the new addresses, and only keep the ones that engage. For this example, let’s say 70 of the 100 respond in some way. Keep that 70, and remove the 30 that didn’t respond. You now have 1070 in your mailing list.
  3. Your second email, again add 10%. That’s now 107 new addresses.
  4. Again, measure engagement and keep only those who respond.
  5. Continue the same approach until all 6,000 new addresses have been added.

3. Send Emails at a Slower Pace

Many error codes happen because the quantity of emails sent in a short period of time are not taken kindly by the mail servers. If you do not have a reputation with the mail server or your IP reputation is new or not highly regarded, these types of “rate limiting” issues are likely to occur. As mentioned above, feathering in emails — sending 10k new emails slowly throughout each day over 5 days is better than trying to send 50k in just an hour or just one day.

4. Maintain Your IP and Domain Reputation

Maintaining your IP and domain reputation with ISPs and email service providers is essential to your message getting through. Two things you want to do:

These practices and the recommendations in the linked resources can help your email navigate the maze of spam filters and ISP blocks on the way to the inbox. Understand how these blockers work and craft your emails to pass through these gates to improve your email delivery rates and your conversion rates. For more great information on maintaining your IP reputation, see the article IP reputation – 7 ways to maintain it well.

5. Work with Different Email Service Providers

Each email provider has a different threshold for or tolerance of sending to purchased email lists (if they allow it). This way your risk is spread out across different providers. If one says they’ll not let you send anymore, but you have your list split up between 3 providers, you could move that part of the list to the other 2 providers.

6. Coordinate Email Campaigns with Other Departments

Create a coordinated email strategy with other departments in your company to make sure you’re not accidentally sending several emails to the same list in a short period of time. Even if you’ve been following all of the other best practices, if a person gets several emails from your company, they’re more likely to opt out.

7. Be Mindful of your Keywords

Certain industries likely to be scrutinized by mail providers and spam filters. Typically mail providers and spam filters are overly sensitive to emails that contain words that indicate they relate to any of the following verticals: payday, cash advance, loan, money, finance, credit score, work from home, business opportunity, beauty products, weight loss products, freebies, pills, dating, and other similar keywords.

8. Take Extra Care when Sending from your own IPs

If you are sending emails from your own IPs, you want to take even more precautions than you would sending with an ESP, because you don’t want your own IPs blacklisted or blocked.

9. Using only validated emails

One of the quickest ways to get blacklisted is running a campaign with poor quality emails. The higher the percentage of undeliverable emails, the more likely your campaign is to trigger blocking and spam filters. Use an email validation service (like Email Validation in Datafinder or Validate Lists in Versium Predict) to validate your current lists, and new, validated email lead lists (like Predictive List Builder in Datafinder or Create List in Versium Predict), and then always use double opt-in to maintain your prospect lists. 

Caution — Emails and other contact data supplied for an Ad-tech online audience are not appropriate for direct communication marketing campaigns. Online audiences frequently contain old, out-dated, and abandoned emails that work well for extending your reach with online ad targeting, however will result in high bounce rates and possible penalties if used in a direct email campaign. Maintain your IP reputation and ability to send emails by using only validated emails.

Putting it All Together

Understanding how email gets blocked or blacklisted, you can structure your email campaigns well to avoid the pitfalls and increase the deliverability of your email campaigns.

More Reading

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