Seed Lists, Inboxing and Open Rates
This week, we're going to briefly touch on seed lists, inboxing and open rates and how to keep your open rates as high as possible.
First things first, let's talk about seed lists...
Seed lists can be "helpful" in determining what's going on with your marketing, but they are not the perfect by any stretch of the imagination. ISPs are CONSTANTLY changing their filtering and relying more and more on engagement. By definition, seed list addresses are unengaged. As such... it's important to know if (and how) a seed list provider is adjusting for this.
In addition, when you see inbox percentages, this is based off the composition of the seed list, not YOUR list. For instance, if you have a list that contains 50% Gmail, then the statistics will be off... In other words, the data is simply not an accurate reflection of your list.
If you ARE using seed lists, it might be a good time to take inventory of your list and get a real picture of your list composition. In other words, what percentage of your subscribers are MSN, Yahoo, Gmail, etc. Then, keep a close eye on the inbox in those ISPs and find out how it compares to the seed list composition.
The best way to determine what's going on with your list and whether or not you're hitting inboxes, in general, is to set up internal seed lists and test your content up front BEFORE sending out your emails to make sure it is inboxing in your seed email account. Then, the general content is not the issue. The issue is then most likely related to engagement of your subscribers. This is why it is SO important to purge subscribers that are no longer interacting with your messages, or at the very least drop them to a less frequent mailing cycle.
You want the engaged users on your list and to remove the dead weight frequently.
NOTE: In testing content, you may need to check your disclaimers, footers, from domains, domains in the body copy, HTML formatting, etc.
You should also keep an eye on your opens by ISP over time. If you are seeing consistent percentages, more than likely, there's not a problem with your inbox placement rates.
However, that's not to say that there are not cases where you may start to see a decline in opens. There are a number of possible reasons for this...
1. Engagement - Work on getting higher engagement rates with your list, decreasing unsubscribes and spam complaints, etc.
2. List maintenance - clean out subscribers that are no longer opening your emails. If they're not opening, remove them. Our clients that do this regularly often see open rates in the 20% - 30% ranges... whereas clients that never clean out their lists have significantly lower open rates.
3. ISP filters are constantly changing - in fact, just a few weeks ago, Gmail filters made some pretty noticeable changes (we all use multiple accounts for testing and the results are not consistent across accounts, meaning in one Gmail account an email might inbox whereas in another, it goes to spam)
4. Domains and URLs are playing a larger role in deliverability and inbox placement so protect your domains at all costs.
5. Dropping in lower quality leads. We often see that when people see success with their results, they drop on other leads that are lower quality, which hurts the overall engagement rate, thus having a negative impact on deliverability, inbox placement and engagement.
6. Reputation. Generally reputation is nothing more than a symptom of the above items, so it's important to figure out WHY the problem occurred in order to fix it and prevent it from happening again in the future.
In some cases, it may make sense to change a domain or an IP address, but only after the underlying problem has been resolved as not to repeat the same issues that caused the problem in the first place.
For over a decade Heather Seitz used email marketing to build successful companies and had to solve the biggest barrier to consistent profitability: deliverability. Today she is the Co-Founder and CEO of Email Delivered.
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