Email Deliverability 101

Successful email deliverability is landing in the recipient's inbox rather than in their spam or junk folder. Landing in the inbox gives you a higher chance of the recipient seeing and engaging with your message.

In recent years, Internet service providers (or ISPs, e.g. gmail.com, yahoo.com, hotmail.com) have become even more strict with their spam filtering algorithms. So adhering to email deliverability best practices is crucial for a successful email campaign.

Best Practices for "Warming-up" Your Domain

Your email domain is what follows the @sign in your email address, e.g. @college.edu. ISPs monitor domains to make sure they're credible and not sending spam to people. One indicator they look at is the volume of emails a domain typically sends.

The domain "warm-up" process involves gradually increasing sending volume over a period of a few weeks. This helps build the domain/sender reputation for a new domain or prepare for sending a higher volume than usual for an existing domain.

For instance, think of a high volume senior search campaign launching in August. The domain doesn't usually send that high of a volume. To account for this, we would first warm-up by sending to people who are more likely to engage, for example, prior opens, prospects, applicants, admits.


Tip 1: focus your 1st campaigns on emails to applicants or prospective students how already have an open email in the activity log


As ISPs see that your messages are being opened/clicked and that your mail is actually wanted by recipients, this will prove to ISPs that your domain is a legit sender and help warm-up your domain. If you send a high volume of emails and the domain isn't warmed-up, ISPs are more likely to flag your domain as spam, damaging your email deliverability and potentially cause long-term damage to your domain's reputation. The key is to slowly build sending volume over time and to adjust volume based on performance and how recipients are engaging.

Note: warm-up volume and timeline varies per school, but follows a similar pattern.

Sunsetting and List Hygiene

To maintain and improve email deliverability it's also important to filter out recipients who have not engaged after a certain period of time. This process is also referred to as sunsetting. For most major ISPs, the recipient's level of engagement is a significant factor in whether your message is delivered to the determining inbox or not placement. Repeatedly sending to non-engaged users will negatively affect domain reputation and the deliverability of future messages, which in turn will decrease open rates since there's a higher chance of messages not landing in the recipient's inbox. So it's critical to periodically remove unengaged people from your list.


Tip 2: Use a label or a workflow to suppress students from campaigns.


Send at the Right Frequency

It's important to find the appropriate frequency for sending out your messages. Typically, if a school is looking for additional prospects, applicants, deposits, etc., it may seem like there can be a knee-jerk reaction to send more emails over a short period of time (five emails in one week, for example) would be the right approach.

From an email marketing and deliverability perspective, however, this is NOT a best practice. Sending emails more frequently (or different from your normal volume and sending pattern) is counterproductive. ISPs will see your mail coming in high volumes with low user engagement and will more likely flag your domain as spam.

This is a common misunderstanding that we see among our partner institutions. Instead consider resegmenting to a more engaged population to build up domain reputation/inbox placement and sticking with a consistent weekly sending pattern. When you've achieved a good open rate, once open rates have stabilized, you can begin to slowly introduce additional emails on a consistent weekly schedule.

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