Email marketing is a lot more like dating..

If you offer attractive benefits, then the relationship is on, but if you don’t, the subscriber will cut you off. Whether it happens immediately or over a period of time, the primary goal for marketers is to pique subscriber interest and get them heavily engaged with your product and service.

So, how committed are you to developing a solid, long term relationship with your subscribers?

Marketers define engagement by how active their subscribers are, as well as interaction with their marketing efforts. Marketers can measure engagement through things like opens, clicks, and conversions. For marketers, high engagement means their marketing efforts are working which translates into higher ROI.

Engagement is great for marketers to measure how effective their programs are, but honestly ISPs don’t care how many clicks or conversions you get.

ISPs only care about their users – which happen to be your subscribers!

Their primary goal is to make email enjoyable and useful. The #1 concern with email users is subscriber fatigue. We get so much email that we can’t keep up with it all.

We also get a lot of spam, which is the largest obstacle for ISPs. ISPs do block a lot of spam.

Microsoft received 8 billion email messages per day. Out of those, 90% are spam.

Now, the ISPs do a pretty good job of blocking spam, but some legitimate mail does get caught by spam filters (less than 1%). Even though ‘less than 1%’seems like no big deal, it also means that around 55 million legitimate messages are still getting caught. ISPs like Microsoft are now focused on reducing that number and making sure that people get all of the email they want.


Measuring Engagement

Currently there are only two webmail providers that are using engagement metrics, Hotmail and Gmail.

They don’t care how well your marketing program is working. They just want to know what email their subscribers want, and which subscribers they can trust for feedback. Meaning – marketers won’t be rewarded by padding their lists with inactive addresses to keep their complaint rates low. The ISPs give more weight to trusted subscribers. They know those subscribers are active and real people.

There are three main factors that Hotmail considers when defining subscriber engagement.

  1. 1. Messages read, then deleted
  2. 2. Messages deleted without being read
  3. 3. Messages replied to

This individual analysis overrides global filters, so your emails may land in the inbox of one person, but get delivered to the spam folder by default in others.

Gmail recently released their Prioritized Inbox to help their users sort through all the clutter.

Google Prediction attempts to predict what is important to a user based on their actions. Like Hotmail, it will look at things like how often, or not, you read messages from a particular sender. Gmail also looks at the types of email you ‘star’, whether it’s addressed directly to you or not, and how the user ranks its importance.

Gmail Priority Inbox Layout

This is what Gmail Priority Inbox looks like


To most marketers, this looks like bad news.

  • How on earth will we know where our email gets delivered now, if they’re using subscriber level filtering?
  • What do I need to do to make sure my email gets priority and is delivered to the inbox?

Don’t despair! A lot of the things you are doing now will still work, but there may be some things you will need to start doing.


Seed list monitoring is still important!

You will hear a lot of nonsense that “seeds don’t work anymore.” This is not true at all. Seed lists measure how you are performing against the global filter. It’s also still important to track your reputation.

Monitor your Reputation!

Reputation is still main driver for determining default mailbox placement.

Reputation consists of:

  1. Complaints
  2. Unknown Users
  3. Honeypot Addresses/Spam Trap
  4. Sending Infrastructure
  5. Sending Permanence
  6. Subscriber Engagement
  7. Content

Ignoring its importance can land you in trouble!


Complaints are still important to measure and reduce..

The ISPs will be calculating complaint rates based off of active subscribers instead of total volume sent. Therefore, you may see an increase in complaint rates, even though the total number of complaints remained the same. You should continue reducing complains and begin to dig deeper into the reasons WHY your subscribers are complaining.

Common factors for complaints..

  1. Lack of permission or disclosure at the point of email collection
  2. Mailing too frequently
  3. Content isn’t relevant or what was expected

Analyse the data points you currently have to find those trends.

Things you can do.

  1. Remove dead addresses
  2. Win back inactives, before it’s too late
    1. Subscribers who are ignoring your emails are soon lost to you – recapture them before it’s too late.
    2. How often should you remind subscribers to stay active? It depends on mail type and frequency, but generally if subscribers are ignoring your emails for a quarter, it’s time to take action.
    3. Win-back strategies are no longer something you should think of once per year. In order to optimize deliverability, senders should implement a strategy to win those inactive subscribers back.
  3. Re-engage the dead ones
    1. Some marketers re-permission subscribers that didn’t previously re-engage with their win-back campaign. This type of action will trim your list of dead addresses which include spam traps and unknown users. It will also help remove complainers.
  4. Manage Frequency
    1. A key reason subscribers complain and unsubscribe is because they goo much email from us.
    2. Frequency testing – you could look at response rates to figure out the optimal frequency. But a really simple way is to use some data that you already have – complaint data. You can also look at unsubscribe rates or simply ask your subscribers the exact frequency in which they would like to receive email from you.
    3. People complain the most after 1 email indicating an issue with the sign up process, then really start complaining after 15 messages or so. After 43 emails, people lost interest. What does your complaint file say?