These best practices are important to any and all organizations utilizing outbound email marketing for lead generation.
Over the years, marketers have amassed a plethora of knowledge surrounding email deliverability. Your email marketing strategy cannot afford to ignore the laws, guidelines and best practices surrounding this topic. Without an understanding of these strategic methods for reaching your target audience, your lead generation efforts risk bypassing the inbox and heading straight towards their junk folders. We, at DiscoverOrg, are particularly interested in these best practices since email marketing is such an essential aspect of our lead generation process.
Even before you explore the buzzwords to avoid, the number of images to include and placement of your “unsubscribe” link, there are a handful of technical steps that will start your email marketing strategy efforts off on the right foot. These best practices are important to any and all organizations utilizing outbound email marketing for lead generation; however they are critically essential to small start-ups who may not have the history or longevity to help with deliverability. Some may require a bit of guidance by your IT department, but they’re definitely worth the extra effort.
Step 1: Set-Up an SPF Record at the Domain Level
What is an SPF? An SPF (Sender Policy Framework) essentially protects the email recipients’ inbox from sender forgery. It means that your emails are really coming from where they say they are coming from. An SPF lookup in the email host ensures that when the message says that it is from DiscoverOrg that it is, in fact, from DiscoverOrg.
How does it work? When you send an email, the recipient’s email server does a look-up at the DNS level to ensure that the IP address, or domain sending emails on your behalf, has been authorized to do so. The basic requirement to set up the SPF records is to have your website administrator log into your website host and authenticate the different IP addresses that are used to send out emails on your behalf. For example, we send out emails from UnifiedMail, Marketo, Intermedia and Sendgrid, so we have to authorize the IP addresses from those senders as DiscoverOrg even though they may be owned or hosted by third parties.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to setting up your SPF Record: http://www.getreservoir.com/support/articles/improving-email-deliverability-spf-record
Step 2: Set-Up a DKIM Key
The other way that email hosts verify the validity and authenticity of the sender is through a DKIM (Domain Key Identified Mail). This is very similar to the SPF analysis above, where it basically verifies the sender for the recipient. Here’s a guide on how to set this up: http://pages2.marketo.com/rs/marketob2/images/SPF-and-DKIM-for-Email-Deliverability.pdf
Step 3: Register Your IPs and Domains at emailreg.org
EmailReg.org is a Barracuda Networks Partner; so if your prospects or customers are using Barracuda as a spam/anti-virus solution, it is critical that you register your IP and domains there as well. According to the Barracuda Networks site:
“Barracuda Networks has partnered with emailreg.org to improve the deliverability of legitimate email over traditional IP “whitelist” services. To help combat spam email, domain owners register their domains and sending IP addresses with emailreg.org. Registering domain information and sending IP addresses in pairs compels domain owners to take responsibility for email that both emanates from their registered IP addresses and uses their associated domain information. The Barracuda Spam & Virus Firewall exempts emailreg.org registered IP address and domain name pairs from specific spam filtering layers to avoid potential false positives and to reduce overall system load. Spoofed domains or email originating from registered IP addresses that do not come from the registered domains are scanned normally.”
This is really inexpensive and easy to do at emailreg.org. It will also require you to verify your domain and the DNS level.
Step 4: Sign up for MxToolBox
MxToolBox is a service that allows you to check if your sending IP addresses or domains are found on any Blacklists. It can also notify you in real-time if your domain or IP gets listed as a “Spammer.” This is important to track in real-time – ESPECIALLY if you share an IP for sending. As an example, we’ve had a couple of instances where an IP, that we use on a shared Comcast IP range, was compromised and sending millions of messages. Because MxToolBox alerted us right away, we were able to contact Comcast, stop the emails and immediately get ourselves removed from the blacklists.
Bottom line is this: if you’re sending outbound email, you need to be cognizant of your email sending reputation and your IP Reputation. These two things are critical to your deliverability, so stay on top of them. Following these technical steps ensures the success of your email campaigns and allows you to focus on the rest of your email marketing strategy –content, copy and creative.