Improving Inbox Placement: 6 Steps to Stay out of Spam

6 minute read

Team PostUp

One of the great things about newsletters is that they’re the closest thing that digital has to the regular newspaper delivery.

When the print newspaper reigned supreme, the daily delivery of a print paper formed habits with its readers. The newspaper wormed its way into readers’ daily routines. Papers were read each day over coffee, on the subway, or maybe just when people needed to look busy.

That’s why publishers find them such an effective tool for driving engagement and selling paid subscriptions. As Digiday put it in this May 2018 article:

“Newsletter subscribers are typically a publisher’s most engaged readers. Once readers have subscribed to a newsletter, they are much less likely to let their subscription lapse. So, they’re a critical tool to remind people of what the Times [of London] can offer, making sure readers come back each week.”

Newsletters are lauded by publishers for their ability to replicate the habit-forming nature of physical print deliverability. But only if your newsletter makes it to the inbox.

Unfortunately, delivering email isn’t quite as easy as throwing a rolled-up newspaper on your audience’s front porch.

Even if your email gets delivered, it doesn’t always get delivered to the right spot. Your inbox placement rate is the percentage of your email that makes it to the inbox, and there are all kinds of things that keep this number down. If you’re having trouble holding down your spot in the inbox, try a few of these tips on for size.

1) Do what you can to minimize spam complaints.

If you receive regular spam complaints, inbox providers might hesitate to put your email in the inbox. Some email subscribers will eventually tire of your email—list churn is inevitable—but doing your part to cut down complaints could keep you in good standing with ISPs.

First, make sure your unsubscribe link is clear. Not only does that keep you CAN-SPAM compliant, it’s a good way to prevent subscribers from taking more drastic measures to get rid of your email. If they can’t find where to exit your list, they’ll just hit the spam button.

Likewise, if you send more email than a subscriber can handle, these subscribers could be tempted to mark you as spam. You might just avoid a complaint if you give these subscribers the option to “take a break” from your communication instead.

2) Keep your list clean to avoid spam traps and blacklists.

Sending email to an address on a spam trap can earn you a permanent ticket to the spam folder. But how can you make sure you don’t get tripped up by spam traps? And what exactly is a spam trap?

Spam traps are email addresses used to catch emailers in the act of shady email practices. While pristine spam traps are new email addresses that created specifically to serve as a trap, recycled spam traps are old, out-of-use email addresses that were reclaimed by the mailbox provider. If you send email to these addresses, you could take a serious hit to your sender reputation, or worse, end up on a blacklist.

Emailers who use shady methods to acquire their email lists (like buying lists) are in jeopardy of sending to a spam trap. Without proper list hygiene, you could also end up sending to a recycled spam trap. When you’ve got a newsletter subscriber count to admire, you might be loath to part with older email addresses, but cleaning your list might just be what you need to make sure your inbox placement rate can be admired too.

3) Don’t forget about email engagement metrics.

You’ve heard it a million times. It’s tired advice, but the fact remains: engagement matters. Now, more than ever.  As spam filters get more sophisticated, it’s important that you have the content to match.

Sending good content is critical for earning engagement from your subscribers, but it’s also important to remember the engagement metrics that ISPs use to determine whether your content is engaging. These metrics include:

  • Marking as “not spam” or adding to a “safe senders” list. Naturally, when subscribers explicitly tell their mailbox to deliver certain mail to the inbox, ISPs take note.
  • Forward rate. Do your subscribers send your content along to other people? ISPs see that as a good sign.
  • Reply rate. If you’re sending an email from a “no-reply” address, you might be missing out on an opportunity to drive additional engagement. It might not work for every newsletter, but encouraging readers to reach out can earn you mailbox provider brownie points.

4) Employ preference centers

Your unsubscribe rate is another metric that can signal poor engagement to ISPs.

In addition to asking subscribers whether they want to take a break from your communication, you can also use preference centers to mitigate unsubscribes. The preference page serves as a last-ditch way to keep your list around by connecting potential unsubscribers with a sending cadence that might be more in line with their appetite for email.

Additionally, preference centers might also direct these users towards content that might be more relevant. In that case, they’ll be more likely to routinely engage with your content, potentially providing a boost to your inbox placement.

5) Maximize engagement with email list segmentation.

List segmentation is another tactic that can ensure your emailing habits align more closely with your email audience.

If certain parts of your list don’t engage with your email as much as you like, you can segment these subscribers into a list and send them email less often. That might increase the likelihood of them engaging with your content. Even better, your most dedicated subscribers might willingly engage with more frequent content if you segment them into a list that receives more email. This could potentially provide another boost to your metrics.

Are there dormant segments of your list who haven’t clicked on your content in months? You might have luck awakening these subscribers with a re-engagement email campaign. If successful, re-engaged subscribers tend to engage more than the rest of your list; if not, you might consider cleaning them from your list entirely.

6) Use seed testing to identify deliverability issues before you send.

When deliverability can often prove to be a puzzle for even the most seasoned email program, it can feel like a gamble every time you hit “send.” Unless you test your email deliverability performance before you send.

Seed testing is the act of sending a test email to a seed list comprised of test email addresses at various mailbox providers. By monitoring these test email addresses, you can catch deliverability or rendering issues before you send to your entire list.

Of course, it won’t solve all of your deliverability challenges, but it can give you an idea of what mailbox providers might pose major inbox placement problems, allowing you to adjust your strategy accordingly.

Among others, deliverability tools like seed testing are built directly into the PostUp platform. To see how PostUp helps publishers get more email to the inbox, check out our deliverability solution guide.

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