If you are an Amazon SES customer, you probably know that in addition to managing your email campaigns, you need to be mindful of your reputation as an email sender.
Maintaining a good reputation as a sender is vital if you rely on email delivery as part of your business – if you have a good reputation, your emails have the best chance of arriving in your recipients’ inboxes. If your reputation is questionable, your messages could get dropped or banished to the spam folder. Recipient ISPs may also decide to throttle your email, preventing you from delivering emails to your recipients on time.
This blog post provides five best practices to help you keep your email-sending reputation and deliverability high by focusing on the source of most deliverability problems: list acquisition and management.
Without further ado, here are our Top 5 Best Practices for List Management:
Use confirmed opt-in (a.k.a. double opt-in or the gold standard). The principle behind this is simple – when a user enters an email address on your website, you need to verify that the address is legitimate before you add it to the mailing list you use for your regular campaigns. To this end, you send a verification email to the address and ask the subscriber to click a link in the email, which will then enable the account. By clicking on this link, the email address owner is confirming that they are willing to receive the email notifications they signed up for on your website. The benefits of this practice are evident:
- You will not send to an email address more than once (or a few times, if the customer requests a second verification email). If the address is fake (or a typo) and the email is sent to someone who doesn’t want to hear from you, then you are less likely to get a complaint from this person because they will only get one email.
- Since your actual mail campaigns are only going to addresses you have verified, then you know that you are making good use of your resources and that your campaigns are actually appreciated by the recipients.
- Process bounces and complaints. SES provides feedback on bounces and complaints through SNS (or email) to make it easy for you to be alerted of addresses that bounce or recipients who complain. If you get a hard bounce or a complaint, you should remove that email address from your list. You should also identify the root cause of the bounces and complaints. For example, say that you notice that your bounce rate for new subscriptions is rising. This could be an indicator that people are signing up for your service using fake email addresses. While it is not unusual for someone to sign up using a fake email address, you need to make sure that you are not encouraging your customers to do so. One way in which you could be encouraging customers to do this is by giving away free stuff without asking for a confirmed opt-in. If you are in this situation, you need to change the incentive that drives customers to sign up using fake addresses: either remove the gifts or implement confirmed opt-in (there is a reason we call this the gold standard J).
- Remove non-engagers. You need to operate under the assumption that if a customer is not opening or clicking your email, then they are not interested in what you're sending. Define a timeframe that makes sense to your business, and if a recipient doesn't interact with your mail within that timeframe, stop emailing them. This tactic is a great complement to double opt-in and should be standard for any email sender. Regardless of whether a customer originally opted in through double opt-in or just a regular signup, an email address can go stale and become a spamtrap. Spamtraps are silent reputation traps, which means that you will get no indication that you are hitting them – removing non-engagers is the only way to avoid them. They are used by many organizations to measure a sender’s reputation, and particularly how well the sender is measuring engagement. If you continue to email spamtraps, your mail could end up in the spam folder, your domain could be blacklisted, and SES could suspend your service.
- Make it easy for your recipients to unsubscribe. If you are sending bulk email (as opposed to mail that is the result of a transaction), then you need to make it easy for customers to opt out of the mail. Include an easy-to-spot opt-out link in every bulk email, and use the list-unsubscribe header for easy integration with ISPs who support it. If a customer does not want the mail, you should not send it to them. Sending email to an unwilling recipient will do more harm than good. In many locations, including the US, Canada, and much of Europe and Asia, enabling recipients to easily opt out of your email is a legal requirement.
- Keep your mailing lists independent. If you operate more than one website, you should never mix your subscriber lists. Customers who sign up for website A should never (under any circumstance) receive an email from website B, unless they sign up for that one too. The reason is simple: These customers have only agreed to receive email from website A. Furthermore, if your customers get mail from a website unknown to them, they are likely to mark that mail as spam, thus hurting your email reputation.
Never forget: Your email campaigns are only as good as their ability to reach your customers, and following best practices can be the difference between a delivered and a dropped email. While the above best practices should help you, list management is only a part of the equation – the quality of your content also plays a big role in your ability to deliver email. Nevertheless, we hope our recommendations in this post will prove useful in your email endeavors.
If you have questions, feel free to let us know via the SES Forums or in the comment section of this blog.