Five Ways Legal Marketers Can Improve Email Performance

Five Ways Legal Marketers Can Improve Email Performance

Your most persuasive subject line does no good if your customer doesn’t see it. That beautiful hero image goes to waste if your email ends up in the spam folder.

That’s why deliverability is the single biggest factor leading to your firm’s success with email marketing. While deliverability may sound wonky, it’s vital to understand the factors that contribute to it, and how you can move the needle in your favor.

Deliverability is never more precious than at year-end – and this pandemic year, it’s even more important. Every holiday season sees a massive spike in email, as businesses tout everything from holiday parties to department store discounts. This year, the burst in traffic is likely to be even more impressive, because the pandemic means that marketers have to rely on digital communications more than ever. 

All that strains the resources of mailbox providers. They’re likely to struggle to manage this sudden increase, and to apply stricter thresholds for spam filtering. That makes it critical to understand the best practices that can help your email cut through the clutter and land in customers’ inboxes.

What “Delivered” Really Means

When an email is marked delivered, it hasn’t necessarily made it to your recipient’s inbox. All that delivered means is that email didn’t face either a hard bounce or a soft bounce. The email still could be blocked, or end up in a spam folder, or in an undesirable category tag. The challenge for marketers, then, is to make sure email is not just delivered, but delivered to the inbox.

To do that, nothing is more important than your email sender reputation. When it comes to making it to the inbox, your sender reputation is just as important – if not more so – than your firm’s own brand reputation.

Filtering Algorithms and Sender Reputations

The first thing to understand about filtering algorithms – as hard as it is to accept – is that there is no way to ‘avoid’ or ‘get around’ filtering algorithms. Every single email is subject to the filter. You want that filter to send your email to the inbox. Otherwise, the algorithm could block your email, send it to spam, or put it under a tab where your customer won’t see it. 

Email deliverability depends on your reputation as a sender. If you’re known for sending spam – or if the algorithm thinks you are – it’s going to be much more difficult for legitimate email to get through. That’s why you want to keep your sender reputation squeaky-clean. Here are five ways to do it.

1. Minimize Complaints from Recipients

Nothing damages your sender reputation faster than complaints from recipients. To complain, a recipient just needs to mark your email as spam. It’s that easy. To prevent that, your email needs to be relevant and your frequency needs to be within customer expectations. 

2. Moderate the Volume of Email Sent, and Use an Email Services Provider 

If you’re using a brand -new domain name and send a high-volume of email right out of the gate, it’s could look like spam to a filter. If you’re using the same domain name you’ve had for years, and the volume of email has been steadily increasing, the deliverability of your messages will be much better.

You can improve the deliverability of high volumes of email with a so-called SMTP relay. SMTP stands for simple mail transfer protocol, and it’s a service of most email services providers. It keeps you from having to run your own email server. It can also keep your email from being mislabeled as spam if you send more messages than email clients such as Gmail or Outlook expect. 

3. Monitor Block Lists 

Blocklists are lists of domains that could be sending spam. There are hundreds of blocklists, and pretty much anyone can create one. There are a wealth of free and paid tools that will help you with blacklist monitoring, and flag you if your domain appears on a blocklist. If you do end up on a blocklist, take a minute to learn how important that particular list is, and if it’s worth the effort to get removed.

Some blocklists have self-serve removal tools, so it looks like you can remove your domain from the list. It’s not quite that simple, though. You need to identify the the underlying issue that landed you on the list, and make sure it’s fixed. Start by reviewing your policies for collecting email addresses and for retiring email addresses that no longer show engagement. Then start a thorough overhaul of your list. 

If you ask to be removed, but you haven’t fixed the underlying problem, you’re likely to end up on the list all over again. If you ask too many times, the chances are that you’ll eventually be rejected.

4. Avoid Cookie-Cutter Templates 

To make sure your message gets all the way to the inbox, be aware of the templates you’re using to create your content. If you’re using widely-available cookie-cutter templates—and spammers are too—your content can suffer by association.

A good balance of text and imagery is also important. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with using a single image as the content of an email – but spammers often do this to try to fool filters. If you do the same, your email could look like spam to a filter. 

Large images also tend to clog email servers, which can affect delivery. Because of this, some filters will turn off images. That means that even if your email makes it through the filter, your reader might not see the image. While images can improve the user experience of your emails, make sure to provide enough copy so that the email still makes sense without the graphics – because that’s how it’s likely to appear to a large part of your audience.

5. Focus on Engagement

To be sure that your emails are legitimate, mailbox providers want to see that your email addresses are active. They want to see that you’re emailing to longstanding accounts, and that customers are opening their mailboxes frequently, reading and sending email on a regular basis, and reporting spam. 

They also want to see engagement with your particular messages, and they use an engagement score to measure this. When a reader replies to your message or forwards your message to someone else, that’ll boost your score. Moving the email to another folder will help too, as long as it’s not the spam folder. That implies customer interest, because the assumption is that the customer wants to return to it later. Adding your domain to an address book is also good. And of course: Marking your message “not spam.”

These five best practices will help make sure your marketing email gets in front of the people you want to reach most – and that you’ll be set up to keep reaching those people well into the future.

For more information about how to best deliver a compelling email program, visit today