So What? Email Marketing Deliverability

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In this week’s episode of So What? we focus on email marketing deliverability. We walk through the most common reasons why your email is stuck on your server and how to resolve those issues. Watch the replay here:

So What? Email Marketing Deliverability


In this episode you’ll learn: 

  • What really matters for getting your email delivered
    The three delivery protocols you should set up
    The one thing almost every email marketer never does

Upcoming Episodes:

  • What are Core Web Vitals and why do they matter? – 10/1/2020
  • Video SEO – 10/8/2020
  • How do you benchmark a website’s performance? – TBD


Have a question or topic you’d like to see us cover? Reach out here:

AI-Generated Transcript:

Katie Robbert 0:32
Well, we need to fade out that music a little bit better. So welcome to so what the marketing analytics and insights live show from Trust Insights. I’m Katie Robbert. I am joined by Chris Penn and John Wall as always. And today we are talking about email marketing deliverability.

John Wall 0:51
So I jumped into the site went to make sure we called out that Chris has actually worked in this field forever. When we first started doing marketing over coffee, I think about within a year you were at Blue Sky factory, which is an email service provider that ended up getting acquired by what counts? And I think even they were even acquired maybe around 2011. I mean, so this is a long time. But email deliverability is a question that I’ve always seen this as a dark art, you know, like, there’s a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes, but very few people know how it works. And I’ve been I’ve had many email service providers, talk to me about how it works. And they can answer basic questions about it. You know, there’s maybe one guy at the company that knows how that works. And so yeah, we’re here to let you kind of light things up for so we can torture the next vendor that we talked to when we’re talking.

Christopher Penn 1:39
I mean, that’s fine. Yeah, so so deliverability is one of those things that in the email marketing world, you have some control over and some control you don’t and and I guess the best way to explain is kind of like a supply chain, right, where you have your originating server, which is where the email comes from, and they have people and then you have this big mysterious, you know, interconnected series of tubes that your mail passes through, that may or may not get there. So one of the challenges that a lot of marketers have is that it’s not clear when there is a deliverability problem, it’s not clear how you know if there’s a problem, and then it’s really not clear what the problem is, because the problem can occur in a few different places. So I figured we’d talk today about establishing that. And then we’ll get into some of the technical stuff, I guess, depending on how deep down the rabbit hole you want to go. It is a very deep rabbit hole fluting things like DNS configuration, you know, parsing XML reports from vendors and stuff like that. But there is some, there’s a logic to it all?

Katie Robbert 2:46
Well, I guess that’s where, you know, I would, as a CIO, you know, we make no bones about the fact that I am not the technologist or the data scientist on the team. And so I’m always good for asking the basic general questions. And, you know, so when you’re saying like, Is there even a problem? How often do you think, Chris, that people just say, Well, you know, my open rates aren’t that good, or, you know, the email, you know, didn’t even reach that many people, or they don’t even look at those metrics, they just send the email and go like, do you think that that’s, like, the precursor to the problem?

Christopher Penn 3:24
It depends, it depends on how your organization is set up. So like at a small company, that where there’s one person doing everything, you get kind of a holistic view. In fact, let’s look at an example of this. One of the things that people don’t do is they don’t look in there even something as simple as Google Analytics to say, like, hey, are we getting traffic from email? So this is my website, and this is year to date. And what should be immediately apparent is some weird stuff has been happening in the period between really until the beginning of September. Prior to that it was kind of flat, you know, about two or 300 visitors a week from email, and then suddenly, you know, it’s going up, up, up up. And, you know, the question is why we don’t know, is there a problem with my email? deliverability? Apparently, not, at least in terms of getting email to my website. But this is odd. This is unusual. And so one of the first places that anybody should go to figure out if email is working for them at all, is Google Analytics and say, like, are you getting email traffic? Assuming that your Google Analytics is set up properly in your track? That

Katie Robbert 4:32
was going to be my next question is how much of that issue is related to the channel groupings not being set up correctly?

Christopher Penn 4:41
In this case, it’s not as big a deal depending on the segments you have set up. So like in this case, I have an email segment which is clearly defined for what I think email is. So that includes, you know, a source or a medium with email in it but also includes things like a, which out of the box Google Analytics thinks is referral traffic. bizarrely it even thinks that about Gmail, but I don’t understand because their product. So that’s one of the first places to go check is assuming that you’ve got Google Analytics set up properly, you could go and check there. The second place you go check is in your software. Right? So if I pull up my email, software, it’s I can see here, my read rates for my newsletter, how many people got sent to, and then how many people read it. And what I’m starting to notice is that, you know, as of, really, the last few weeks, the read rates have been up considerably from where they were, you know, in the beginning of the year where it was, you know, 13 14%. So this makes more sense, if I’m getting more people to actually read the email. Well, this is so small numbers, though.

Katie Robbert 5:49
So Chris, one of the questions that someone’s asking is, is Google Analytics, even the right tool for a small company, I know that we could go off on, you know, a whole topic about that. But so in this instance, you’re probably using the free version of Google Analytics, which is appropriate for any size company.

Christopher Penn 6:09
Yeah, I mean, Google Analytics is inappropriate, once you hit the sampling limits, right? Once you’re getting a million visitors to your site a day, then it’s time to upgrade to the pro version. But if you’re under a million visitors a day, you’re probably good at the free version, if you’re, if you’re at a million visitors a day, you should be monetizing that and be able to fail for the favors. So I do see that mind read numbers, even though the audience size is increasing, the read numbers are holding relatively stay. So I might have a deliverability problem, because I meant I’d be getting through to more people if your list is growing, but your opens aren’t growing, you might have a problem where Hey, you’re throwing stuff out, but still not landing in new spots. Right? So that tells me there’s there may be something up here. open rates are important look at click rates are important to look at too, because there are a lot of email companies like Gmail outlook, especially where they won’t load images by default. And if the image doesn’t load, the open doesn’t fire and you don’t see that the open rate, you can see it and click through rates. The third place to look for email deliverability problems is, frankly, in the inbox, one of the things that I still baffles me that marketers don’t do is you go out and get yourself a free Hotmail account, a free Yahoo account, a free gmail account, you know, and you add those to your list. And then you have them in a piece of email, like Thunderbird or Spark or something like that. And you look like, hey, do we get our newsletter this week? To all of our test accounts? If the answer is no, you’ve got a deliverability problem. I guess one of the things, people just don’t think about it. So let’s say that we think there’s a deliverability problem. There’s three different kinds of deliverability problems, there’s technical, there’s list, and there’s content. a technical problem is one where the emails aren’t getting through something is causing your emails to simply not arrive. There are list problems where you have lots of bounces, low open rates, open rates that are out of sync with your list sizes, and then there’s the content, we have a low click through rates. So which do you want to tackle first,

Katie Robbert 8:30
um, you know, I’m trying to think of sort of the, you know, common denominator. And so let’s start with content and then move on to list and then technical, and it’s not the technical is not important, but it is a bit of a rabbit hole, and it is a more advanced thing. So what are some of the things that a marketer has control over and they can do themselves, you know, in the immediate.

Christopher Penn 8:54
So there’s stuff in each of these, that for the content is actually one of the easiest to address. And one of the things that I love, love love doing is making an unsubscribe that you literally cannot miss. Like, if you cannot find my unsubscribe button, you need medical attention, you need to see an ophthalmologist because that literally takes up the entire screen. Having an easy unsubscribe, having an obvious unsubscribe, processing them in a timely fashion gets rid of people on those who don’t want to be there. And the more you do that, the better your list performs, because you will have higher open rates, you’ll have fewer spam reports and things like that. So from a content perspective, a making it easy for people to leave like really easy, and then be and I know this is so trite. have content worth reading. I mean that’s that that is like one on one but here’s the thing, like the end This is an easy test. If you were reading your email and pretend you didn’t work at your company, would you still want to get this email? Like would I still want to receive the Trust Insights newsletter if I didn’t work here? In my case, it’s like, there is unique data every single week. Like, I know how the day is produced, I produce it. But even if I wasn’t producing it, I would still want this information. I would still want to like what but what is happening with Instagram, right? What is happening with Instagram reels like how is it impacting stuff is that for just a stupid content perspective and the you know, hit you with the obvious bat? make stuff that’s worth having? If you look at a ton of the emails that you get every day? A lot of them like, Okay, what I miss this? Here’s a quick question. And either one of you answer this, or if you’re on the field, like David or Tristen Feel free to comment as well. Without looking in your inbox name. As many of the newsletters you subscribe to as possible.

Katie Robbert 11:03
Um, I I’m probably not the good person to answer this because I tend to i, I don’t read newsletters, I personally, I just I sort of find them to be just a bunch of noise. And I’ve even commented on our newsletter, that it’s it’s very dense, there’s a lot of information, which means I’m the wrong audience for it, but that’s okay. JOHN, what about you?

John Wall 11:28
Yeah, well, it’s funny, it’s, uh, you kind of hit the point in that I am either a fanatic about it, or I don’t subscribe at all. So it’s like, I’ve got almost timely In-Ear Insights, marketing over coffee, Seth Godin, Simon Sinek. And the stoic guy, Ryan Holiday, trust me, I’m like, those six. It’s just like, bang. I know, every day. You will. They’re not all dailies, you know, their daily, weekly, monthly, but like, yeah, I those come in, and I look for them. And probably DC Comics is another one, too, which I’ve just stopped doing it right away. Like, that’s a good example of this, too. Is that? I don’t know, I used to read it every week. And but it doesn’t come to me anymore. And now this is the first time in like, months, I’ve noticed like, Oh, it’s actually gone. But yeah, it’s you’re not kind of doing a boring company newsletter. Like it’s got to be really interesting, exciting content for your tribe. And those are the people that you want to get because yeah, there’s no medium in email newsletters. Exactly. So,

Katie Robbert 12:22
Chris, one of the questions that I wanted to ask you is do you think that? Do you think that marketers are nervous to make the unsubscribe button very obvious, because they’re afraid of losing people, they’re afraid that if you make it easy for them to unsubscribe, then they’re just going to go ahead and do that? And then their numbers will go down?

Christopher Penn 12:45
Yep. Because they’re measuring the wrong things. They’re measuring, you know, raw Lisker. They’re not measuring in, say, Google Analytics to look at look at how much easier What is your newsletter actually doing for you instead of because every subscriber you add to a newsletter is an extra cost. It may be, you know, a 10th, or a hundredth of a penny, but it’s still an extra cost. But because companies tend to measure on vanity metrics, like how big is your list, you have, people have a tendency to focus on the wrong thing. And so they think that if I just have, you know, 1000 subscribers or 10,000 subscribers, I’ll win. So the, the way to take that newsletter data, by the way, the idea of which ones you just subscribe to, if you then look in your inbox, you see a whole bunch that you didn’t remember, it’s probably safe to unsubscribe to them, because you, they weren’t enough to be top of mind. So that’s content. The second thing that, again, people don’t do enough, and they rely too much on software to do for them is clean your lists, I can’t begin to tell you how important cleaning your list is frequently. And when you look at unemployment numbers coming in through the Department of Labor and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s like a million people a week losing their jobs structural employments like 14.2% in the United States, which means that your email list is decaying rapidly every single week, more and more stuff doesn’t work. And a lot of people use software and you know, there’s, there’s varying degrees of good and bad software like MailChimp, and Salesforce marketing, cloud Marketo, Mautic, etc. that like to say, Yep, we handle all that for you. But they don’t do a great job of it. Sometimes, you have to get into threat into the weeds. Like sometimes you have to dig in, and actually check to make sure that your software is doing what it’s supposed to be doing. So I give you an example. Real quick here. I use AWS for the back end of my email delivery, which means that Mautic is, you know, AWS is nothing more than a big pipe and you just connect your software just pours email to the pipe. Oh, one of the things you get out of it is you Get these lovely reports. And this lovely report, which comes in JSON format, tells you what’s happening like this is an undetermined bounce type it bounced. But we’re not sure why. There are other ones here, this one is a complaint, hey, this person complained, which is probably something means you should remove this person from your list. There are other ones that are like soft bounce, hard bounce, things like that. When it comes to your list, you have to clean your list, and you have to sometimes process the data yourself, and then feed it to a verification service, like once a quarter to say, Okay, what about all the stuff that I missed? What about all stuff that our service providers missed? How about that, one that we have been using a ton is one called million verifier. And you just pour your newsletter list in here, and it comes back and says, Hey, you know, here’s the number of lists, the ones that have just gone bad. So every week before we send the Trust Insights, newsletter, all the new subscribers that have, you know, been on that list, get put through here, we validate them if they’re if they’ve gone bad or not. And once a quarter, actually now, once a month, since the pandemic started, we put our list through here, you know, regardless of when we add the person, regardless, when they subscribed, put it through here and knock out the bad stuff. Now, Katie, I know that sometimes causes a little consternation, because every week we also put the here’s how many subscribers the newsletter has new every week, sometimes the number goes,

Katie Robbert 16:31
Yeah, you know, and it is it’s a little concerning. But it’s also helpful to have the context of, you know, unemployment, and, you know, bad subscribes and those types of things. Because if you’re just looking at the raw numbers, you could assume that that many people just flat out unsubscribe from your content. And then you could start overhauling everything when really you had very good content. But people switched email addresses, which Chris to your point is happening a lot lately. And so I’m because I’m a bit OCD, I track all of these numbers, a fairly frequently. And by that, I mean, literally, every week on a Wednesday, I want the numbers, and I want to put them in my spreadsheet, and I want to back calculate the growth or the decline or this or that. But that’s me, that’s my approach. And so having the additional information outside of just the raw numbers, is really helpful in trying to understand what happened. And so for example, you posted the newsletter subscribers yesterday, when you sent out our company newsletter, and there was a difference of one person from the prior week. And so that, to me, says that, yes, I’m seeing new subscribers come through. But there are enough, either unsubscribes, or bad email addresses to split the difference. So there was almost no growth week over week, because we do, you know, we do have like organic social posts going out of like, hey, do you want to subscribe to our newsletter, we try to make it very easy in our website. And so if neither of those things are working, and the list isn’t growing, that’s a different problem that we need to address.

Christopher Penn 18:04
Yep, you also have to deal with user error. So one of the things that we do, this is an example of one of the control files we use. When we load our list each week, there’s, there’s an art piece of our programming software, our code that loads this table, and looks for common misspellings. So you know, you forgot the a and, right. And so we go through, and we clean up the list. Now, for a list our size, I mean, we’re in the, you know, 10s of thousands of subscribers, we were doing some work for one of our clients, which has 8 million subscribers on their lists. And just running through this cleanup alone brought back 35,000 emails that had just were bad because somebody fat fingered their the domain on their email. So having those cleaners in place, even before you go to like a service, like million verifier, whatever, is a great way to help your list recover. And as long as you’re doing with stuff that people did with form fills, it’s still they still intended to subscribe to you. So it’s not like you’re sending them an email out of the blue. It’s like, no, they intend to do this, they just were typing with their face.

Katie Robbert 19:12
And you’re also saving, especially if you’re paying per user or paying percent you’re saving, you know, 35,000 emails is not small dollars if you’re using a system like Salesforce, because the cost when you get to that volume can be really large. And so there’s also a financial reason to be doing this kind of cleaning, even if it means your overall numbers that you put on paper will look smaller, you’ll actually have a tighter list and better deliverability better open rates better, you know, audience overall that you’re reaching.

Christopher Penn 19:47
Yep. Now, the technical rat hole is the last last area. There’s a few different things here. Before we get into the protocol. You’ve got to know where your email lives. Right One of the things that will kill your email marketing is if you are on a shared IP with Bob’s pills pointed casino, you know, Emporium, right, and he’s sending out a billion emails a day, which is all just spam. If you’re essentially living in the same bad neighborhood as Bob’s Emporium, your email is not going to get through. A lot of folks who talk about email deliverability are still very much stuck in like an early 2000s mindset, like it’s all about the content, I don’t use the word free in the subject line. That hasn’t been the case for about five years. What really matters is your reputation, your your server reputation, your domain reputation. So a don’t live in bad neighborhoods. And B, there’s five technical protocols that you need to have set up and you may set this up as a marketer, your vendor may set this up with your help your IT department set this up. So you may need to buy some beer and pizza for it on a Friday to get their health. Because otherwise you’d take it will stay in the IT queue forever. But the five protocols are SPF decom, demark, TLS, and bimi are the the five protocols. And what these are, are essentially methods of authenticating to servers like Gmail, and Yahoo and say, Hey, I am who I say I am. When you see email coming from the server, it really is from me, it’s not pretending to be me. I’m willing to certify that the email is mine, I willing to acknowledge that I’m sending good email and not spamming. And I am willing to encrypt my email. So each of these things has to be set up in a way that tells the receiving servers or the servers that are relaying along that path, from beginning to end of the mysterious pipes tangle in the middle that you are who you say you are. And where this is done is in your DNS, your domain name records.

Katie Robbert 22:07
So question for you, Chris, you know, do you think that people will just sign up for an email marketing piece of software and not realize that these things do need to be set up or, you know, or a lot of these things set up out of the box already?

Unknown Speaker 22:27

Katie Robbert 22:28
and I know it depends, it depends.

Christopher Penn 22:32
And it’s, it’s it’s two parts. So the service provider can do their part and get the pieces on there and set up. But you the client of that vendor still have to do your part, they cannot do it for you. When the when you go to like your DNS records, you have to be the one to insert the records in here properly. And make sure that configured and a lot of the providers in particular, the more expensive ones will tell you like here’s exactly what to type or here’s exactly what to give your IT team to do it. But you still kind of do it. And if you don’t do it, your deliverability rates go down really fast.

Katie Robbert 23:09
So a good software system would tell you this is a step that you need to take to set this up correctly.

Christopher Penn 23:15
That’s correct. And in fact, there are some providers that will actually not let you finish setup and start using the software until it’s set up. I have had arguments with them. Because I’ve said like, Look, I know what I’m doing. Just let me configure the software the way I want to, they’re gonna know you have to have it sit on a 45 minute onboarding call with our technical specialist to walk you through how to set up, you know this thing, like is it DNS records? Yes. I don’t need a 45 minute call, just give me the bloody code itself. Like we can’t do that. It’s okay, you’re fired. We got rid of that better? Because they, like, I know what I’m doing. So how do you do this? The first place, the first thing to do is know where your DNS lives. Right. So in our case, for us and for all of our clients where we manage it, we actually use a service called CloudFlare. CloudFlare essentially intercepts a lot of the DNS stuff and manages it for you and provides, among other things, the ability for you to make changes in an easy, easier environment, and also provide some protection if you someone tries to hack you. But to do that, you got to know essentially what to type. One of my favorite pieces of software is a service called MX toolbox. It’s free. And what they do is they will have all these little wizards tools and stuff like that you can use to build these records. So if we go to their all tools system here. You can have a lot to choose from. And what you would do is based on each of the protocols, you was go through and say, okay, is this is this one that I need to go set up? They have one called the super tool, which I think this is fairly helpful. Let’s do SPF. So let’s do type in

Unknown Speaker 25:11
that one.

Christopher Penn 25:14
And this is going to tell me, am I set up correctly? Right. So there’s my SPF statement, which says, Hey, this is the IP that I usually send from. But also make sure that Amazon, which is where I sent from is included, make sure that my Mautic system is included, make sure my Gmail stuff is included, because I have Google suite. And, and make sure all these other domains are included. And it breaks it down and tells you how this is done. Now, there are It will also tell you like, hey, it looks like some things might not be working right? You should probably go fix those. Right? And if you don’t fix those that can be problematic to build your SPF stuff. Just go and Google SPF wizard.

Katie Robbert 26:00
So okay, let me take a step back for a second. Because yes, you’re getting very technical. And I think that it’s important, but you know, so let’s say I’m trying to DIY this, because I’m a small business, and I have very little budget. And let’s say I, you know, stand up a free or inexpensive email system. And none of my emails are going through if I, you know, research or Google, you know, why isn’t my email being sent? Well, I start to come up with some of these resources, like MX toolbox, or SPF or DKM, or demark. Like, those are terms that until I talked with you about this, Chris, I didn’t commonly hear in reference to email marketing. And so I guess my question is, if someone’s trying to do this themselves without a lot of assistance, how do they get to this point to not to even know, to look at something like an MX toolbox?

Christopher Penn 27:04
Chances are they don’t. And so their email continues to suck.

Katie Robbert 27:08
You know, what, if they continue to Google, like, why isn’t my email getting sent like it will lead you eventually down the trail of getting to something like this,

Christopher Penn 27:15
eventually, there are enough email companies out there that provide enough content that eventually once you learn the lingo and know, you know, for example, you’re talking about deliverability, then you start getting into the technical stuff, but out of the box, most your average marketer is probably not going to know a lot of that stuff. And honestly, sometimes in some circumstances, that’s not a bad thing. Because if you do this wrong, you stop your website from working do which is generally regarded as not not helpful. So for each of these protocols, there’s a way to check it. Again, MX toolbox provides that and then there’s also a way to create it if it does not exist. So here, for example, do you send email from your web server? No, or Yes, if you do, then you’re going to want to include your website, reduce an email for the same server in your MX records? No, or Yes, the answer here is yes. And enter any other hostname. So let’s do Amazon Because I know I have email from Amazon. I know I send from my website. I know I sent from Google Mail and see who I sent for anyone else. Um, no, that’s for fun has put in AI, even though doesn’t come off the server. And then you find your domains IP ranges, which I don’t know, off the top of my head, but you can see what it’s doing is assembling that record for me. And that is what would then go into your DNS. So I would want this to be a strict policy, etc.

Katie Robbert 28:48
JOHN, did you do any of this, when you set up the marketing over coffee email list,

John Wall 28:53
we went back into it, but like I’ve done this on the corporate side before and yeah, it’s you, once you find the list of five, you then just basically spend, you know, at least an hour googling through each of the five and figuring out like what you’re supposed to do. And some of them have testing options, you know, you can set some things up and then ping a server, and they’ll come back and tell you if you’ve got it set up right or wrong. But the really scary ones are the MX records, you know, when you’re messing around with your company’s domain name, because just as Chris said, you’re trying to make sure your email goes through. And next thing, you know, you get a call from the CEO because the homepage just stopped working. That never goes over well. So yeah, it’s like a really ugly and painful thing. And now and I’ve heard that when you go top shelf, you know, if you have an email service provider, that you’re going to pay, you know, $50,000 a year, like just as Chris said, the you know, your account rep will walk through all this and make sure everything’s okay before they even turn you on. But for every other service provider, you know, the all of the the grocery lists of email service providers that small businesses use, like they don’t even touch upon this stuff. So you kind of have no idea if it’s working or not. Yep.

Christopher Penn 30:02
And there’s an additional gotcha that I’m sure you’ve run into if you actually shut down the homepage, and that is that there are what are called TTL. Time To Live records. When you make a change in the DNS, it has to propagate through the domain network system during networking system around the planet that can take minutes, sometimes it can take hours, in rare circumstances, it can take days. So if you screw something up, even if you issue a fix, the fix may get delayed behind the script. So make sure you know what you’re doing before you hit. So mess

Katie Robbert 30:34
and do not piss off your IT team.

John Wall 30:36
Know, well, and this is one of those things that when this is when you think you’ve saved all this money by registering your domain name for like three bucks through some sketchy dude in some other part of the world. Suddenly, the propagation time is like days, as opposed to if you’ve just gone with some huge US company.

Christopher Penn 30:52
Uh huh, exactly. The other thing that you want to check out on a regular frequent basis, is you want to go and look up things like domain health in MX toolbox and ask like, hey, how is my What is my reputation. So let’s do check my domain health here. So this is noted there are, I’ve got some look, some null lookups in my DNS, and you can fix that I need to change my demark record, right? I don’t have it set to quarantine, I need to set the quarantine. I got a few other things here. And that’s normal for Google’s Google suite. But when you look at what’s what results it gives you, it tells you very clearly, these are the things that you need to go fix. If you don’t fix these things, they can have an impact on deliverability. So it’s now up to you to go and do those things and fix them up and make sure that that you’ve done the right things. One other one that is interesting, it’s not relied upon as heavily as it used to be is sorbs lookups. So sorbs is the spam open relay blocking system. And what this does is it essentially when when there are enough complaints to your domain, you end up showing up in a blacklist as blocked by all these different providers. The big one that is causes a lot of people pain, particularly in b2b is Barracuda because Barracuda firewalls sit in corporate networks, and they are sitting in front of a mail server and they will just eat your mail. And you won’t know that your email never got through. You’re just like, hey, our trade show list from our last conference. Nobody’s open our emails. Yeah, it’s because the Barracuda systems ate at all, because you had enough complaints in there. So what you do have to check up on a regular basis, go look up your domain. Let’s do this here.

Katie Robbert 33:01
I think this is a really good pro tip. So even if you don’t have the technical resources to fix up all of those other pieces, even just knowing if you’re getting blacklisted is a step in the right direction. When I worry about

Christopher Penn 33:15
a spammer,

John Wall 33:17
like when, this week when

Katie Robbert 33:18
I worked a couple of companies ago, we would run into this issue all the time. But we didn’t have the technical know how to go look for all of the other protocols and things that were getting fixed. All we knew was that Barracuda was actually the biggest issue and we would constantly be on the spam list. And we just had no understanding as to how to fix it. It was a huge issue because the we then couldn’t reach people.

Christopher Penn 33:45
Yep. One other. It’s not a hack in the in a malicious sense. But when you go through and

Katie Robbert 33:54
act in a shortcut and a pro tip,

Christopher Penn 33:55
yes, is when you have email addresses that go bad. Yes, 100%. Opt them out, remove them, clean them from ala, email us and forget that they exist, right because you never want to send to a bad email address. When email addresses go bad. Sometimes they get converted into honey pots, which means that email providers look for you continue to send email to them and say, Hey, it looks like you’re sending email to an address that doesn’t exist anymore. We’ve told you it doesn’t exist. Now we think you’re spamming. But what you can and should do is export the bad emails into a separate file encrypted for safety. And then you can load it to Facebook and Twitter as retargeting options because what some people don’t do is they don’t necessarily always update their email address tied to their social media profiles. And so you can recover at least some part of those people show them ads saying hey, you’re not you used to be subscribed to the end to headlights newsletter. We’re pretty sure your email addresses change. You know, if you still have to say subscribe, go go click here to re subscribe with your current email address and that would only be shown to people who you had bad email addresses for Again, for a small list like ours, that’s like 50 or 100, people, you could probably manually just go find those individuals. And you know, send them a direct message for our one client that had the list of 8 million, 1 million of those addresses went bad. So that’s a case where they want to have some of the automation to help them out instead.

Katie Robbert 35:21
That’s a really good point. And I think that that is really you know, especially when budgets are slim and teams are, you know, getting cut, really thinking about how you can do more than one thing with the information that you have, is such a smart way to think about your planning moving forward, where you know, an email list of people who, you know, have gone bad, like, a lot of people would just delete that information. But you’re saying there’s other things that you can do to either get those people back, or continue to have them see your information just in a different format. That’s so smart.

Christopher Penn 35:59
Now, the last thing we’re going to cover on the technical stuff, and then we’ll we’ll leave it be is, every time you send an email, you will get what is called a demark report. And this is from the individual vendors, I’ll bring up one here, and it’s a zip file, which contains an XML file, which contains something that’s almost unreadable. There are tools MX toolbox has one, we can load that file, and it will interpret it for you, and then tell you what that provider said, if for the big providers, Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, Yahoo, by the way, is surprisingly important. You would not believe the number of corporate email systems that actually use the Yahoo back end for their email servers. I’m constantly shocked, like, you know, so and so’s you know, coffee, whatever, is actually running on Yahoo Mail on the back end, and it’s just a leftover legacy. But you get that report. And then like, once a month, you load it into the MX toolbox analyzer and you say, hey, read through it, you know, this says you sent six emails yesterday to All six from my domain failed, right? So I need to go and fix something in my demark record is wrong. So I’m failing SPF for alignment six passed for authentication, six failed, so I need to go fix my authentication. Same for decom, I had some I had passes on authentication and a fail on alignment there. So you don’t need to do this with every single vendor, every single demark report, because if you’ve got demark set up correctly, you’re going to get hundreds of these reports every time you send an email, but once a month, get the big reports from the big providers and look at and go, Okay, if I’ve got zero percent compliance, something’s gone wrong. I got 100% compliance, great, you know, and it should give you a sense of like, yeah, I’ve got things set up or no, something’s wrong on the back end. So to wrap up on the on the topic of deliverability, there’s three things wrong, there’s technical, this list, there’s content, contents easiest to fix, make good content, make it easy for people to leave, clean your lists like crazy, and the tactical, set it up, do it right the first time and then monitor it monthly, to make sure that you’re continuing to use that everything you’ve had to set up here is correct. By the way, when you do your DNS edits, you will almost certainly find other things wrong, that are not related to email that you didn’t know were wrong. And it’s an opportunity to improve on your digital marketing infrastructure. So with that to folks watching have any questions.

John Wall 38:36
We had david asked a question early on asking about analytics, you know, email analysis software stuff like Litmus or email on acid. And I know back in the day was returned path, but now they’re, I forget they have a new name, they just got absorbed by somebody. But what’s your take on that kind of stuff? Um, it depends.

Christopher Penn 38:55
Those are good. Something like Litmus Litmus, we used at the email marketing shop a fair amount. They are good ish. If you have like substantial content problems. Or if you just have absolutely positively no technical skills whatsoever for anyone on staff at all. If you have someone who’s who knows DNS reasonably well, who you know, and it, these services will be validation, but they will not necessarily be substantial improvements. If you have none of that. They’re not bad. I have never found them to be worth the cost. But also I’m notoriously cheap. And I’m like, I’ll just do it myself.

John Wall 39:41
Yeah, there’s a lot of the problem is there’s like 500 different things you could look for. And any one of these tools do maybe 100 of them, you know, they’re kind of all over the place. But one thing that I have found useful is if you can find any kind of tool where it gives you back a dashboard of what the email looks like in multiple platforms. Like one of the tools that we use comes back with 100 screens. And it’s like, okay, here’s what it looks in Gmail on an iPhone in Gmail on Android in hotmail on a PC, you know, just as 100 different things. And you can go down through and look, and you can just say, oh, number 65. Here, it looks horrible. We’re doing something wrong on the apple Newton. So go dig the Newton out of the pack, closet and figure out, you know, what the hell’s wrong with that. But something like that can save you time. But yeah, it does seem really crazy in that it’s kind of just a patchwork thing. Like, there’s no one solution that does everything. So you really, you’re much better off understanding everything that goes on, because then you can effectively evaluate the tools. Otherwise, it’s just kind of, you’re buying pieces of a raincoat and hoping you’re going to stay dry.

Christopher Penn 40:42
And the with that, the easiest way to handle that is to actually go into Google Analytics and look at your device reports, right for, you know, look at six months worth of traffic, and see what the majority of your traffic comes in as if you got like four people on a blackberry like, okay, you probably don’t need to render your emails to Blackberry, right. But on the other hand, if you if you think, you know, you’ve got 80% on Android, and it’s actually 70%. On iOS, yeah, you’re probably want to spend some time making sure that your email is compatible for both, or you do what I do, which is lazy away, and you make your emails as simple as possible and just text a few graphics. And you say, this will probably render Okay, I’m just about anything, including that Blackberry.

Katie Robbert 41:29
That’s a good point. And so you know, Chris, you covered the technical, the list and the content, you know, so if you’ve already explored your tracking systems, such as Google Analytics, and you’re and you’re positive, that your channel groupings are set up correctly, you know that you’ve looked at your system rates, your opens your clicks your benchmarks, you’ve checked your inboxes, and everything is still kind of wonky. start to look at these other things that Chris has just walked through. And if you need, you know, any assistance with those things, or have any questions about them, you can give us a shout, we’re happy to sort of help you assess the situation because email is such a vital part of your digital marketing. It’s, it’s definitely not dead. I think that there’s this there was a rumor floating around that email was dead, and it’s definitely not dead. So you know, you want to make sure that you’re getting the most out of your email, especially now, when people’s email addresses are changing so rapidly, you want to make sure that you’re reaching the right people at the right times.

Christopher Penn 42:29
Anybody who says something is dead has got something to sell you you can just ignore it, folks. that’s gonna do it for this week. So what if you’re not already subscribed on the relevant platforms like Facebook or YouTube, wherever it is, you’re watching this, please go ahead and hit that subscribe button, stop by the Trust Insights website and say hi, and we’ll see you all next week. Take care


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