There are three things that YOU control that affect your deliverability:
- Who you send to
- What you send
- How often you send
The Basics (100% necessary)
These are baseline things everyone should do, regardless of your metrics:
Step 1: Set up your sender authentication
- Buy your own domain. It’s like $20/year and is necessary! Good deliverability over a long period of time will not be possible without DKIM and SPF.
- Install DKIM records. DKIM stands for DomainKeys Identified Mail. It links your domain to the emails you send, which allows your organization to take responsibility for a message that can be verified by mailbox providers. It’s pretty complicated, but it basically prevents the “bad guys” from impersonating you as an email sender by letting the recipient’s server check if the sender was really you or not. This means your emails are more likely to get delivered (and not go to spam). All you have to do is email us with the email address you use in your reply-to, and we’ll send you text records to install.
- Install SPF records. SPF stands for Sender Policy Framework. SPF defines which IP addresses can send emails from your domain. It lets the owner of the domain specify which servers can send mail from their domain. You can see what an SPF record on our system should look like here.
Step 2: Ensure you have good opt-in policies (100% opt-ins!)
Let’s be honest: We’ve all been subscribed to email lists we don’t remember opting-in to. It’s confusing and frustrating, and maybe it’s so frustrating that you hit the spam button. The progressive movement tends to have a "big list is a better list” mentality. But sending emails to people who aren’t expecting them is bad for your deliverability. The recipients will be less engaged and might even hit the spam button. When you send unexpected emails repeatedly, email providers can tell you have some shady opt-in practices (remember how the email providers know everything?) and will start sorting your emails into the spam folder.
So before you send an email to someone, ask yourself: is this person expecting an email from me?
- Affirmative opt-ins (make people check a box or radio button indicate they’re subscribing)
- A welcome series of emails that introduces people to your list (who your organization is)
- Segment your recipients based on how they signed up
|So what about joint actions, are those folks opted-in?|
While having people check off a box affirming their opt-in status is a best practice, opting people into your list isn’t always black and white. From purchased lists to confirmed opt-ins, there’s a spectrum of ways people can get on your list. The way someone signed up to your list is a good predictor of future engagement and deliverability. But there are two things you should never do:
|Yes! People taking joint actions, using the additional sponsors tool on Action Network, are opted-in to your email list. However, recipients don’t always read the checkbox listing all the co-sponsors they’re opting-in to. Because of that, recipients from joint actions are “riskier” than those gathered through a sign-up form on your website or collected from an event.|
Step 3: Remove Inactives with a Sunset Policy and Reactivation Series
Since engagement is what determines if your email gets sent to spam, emailing people who haven’t engaged in a long time can be the kiss of death for your sender reputation. That’s why it’s important to implement a sunset policy, where you remove inactive people from your email list after a period of time — typically 6 months to a year depending on how often you send emails (but definitely no more than a year).
You can do this easily on Action Network! Here’s how to unsubscribe people who haven’t engaged in the past year:
- Create an ‘actives’ query like the one below, targeting people who have taken action, opened or clicked an email, or subscribed in the past year. More on queries here.
- Create a report, excluding the actives query. More on reports here.
- Generate a new report, and click the red ‘unsubscribe all activists from lists’ button.
- Automate it! Go to the ‘recurring reports’ tab and set the interval to ‘monthly’ starting next month. Each month, you’ll get an email with the report, which will remind you to unsubscribe your inactive. You can even use ladders and mass operations on reports to automate this for you (ooooh ahhhh)
Step 4: Monitor Your Email Content
Your email content also affects your reputational fingerprint. Here are some things to watch for:
- Ever had your email cut off by Gmail, omitting entire sections of the email you worked so hard on? Your email is getting truncated because it’s too long and the file size is too big, which is another trigger for spam filters. Keep your emails below 102kb. Most emails won’t reach this, but double check longer emails (anything you have to scroll for). You can check by downloading a test email then looking at the file size on your computer.
- No shortened links
- Links like bit.ly/example or tiny.url/example are huge triggers for spam filters. Spammers use them because they redirect people from one website to another but disguise the link in really sketchy ways. Don’t use these!
- Image size
- You may have an excellent National Geographic award-winning image, but large image sizes are a huge trigger for spam filters. Your images should be no wider than 700px, and don’t make an image (like a flier) the only content in your entire email.
- Good HTML
- Easy Unsubscribe
- An unsubscribe is always better than a spam complaint. Make sure your unsubscribe link can be easily located (in Action Network, it’s automatically in the footer of all your emails — you’re welcome). When you start emailing people, especially ‘riskier’ recipients, maybe even include an unsubscribe link in the body of your email (you can do that using the 'unsubscribe link' clip).
Step 5: Engagement Targeting
If your list has ~20,000 activists or more, you should definitely use engagement targeting and never send to the full list in one segment. This means that you'll only send emails to the most active people on your list, and only send to less active people if the email performs super super well. There's a handy dandy "engagement" filter on email/report/mobile messaging targeting you can use! This is similar to testing down the list (read more about that here).