If you're running a business, you need an email list. But you also need to send the right emails. And you also need to make sure those emails are actually getting into your subscribers' inboxes.
I often talk about the fact that email is the way to go. And it is! I only wish I'd started my email list sooner. And email does offer advantages over platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube, which have algorithms that can block our messages from the audiences that want to hear from us. But email has a similar issue, and it's one you need to address if you want to reach more people: the dreaded spam folder. Why do emails end up in spam, and what can you do about it?
That's what we're talking about today with Adrian Savage, the founder of Deliverability Dashboard. Adrian is a wizard when it comes to all things email deliverability. In this episode, he goes over the four keys to massively improving your email deliverability rates. If you have an email list or are thinking of starting one, this episode is a must-listen. You can also get access to a simple checklist that helps you avoid the spam folder and potentially double your open rate at DeliverabilityDashboard.com/checklist.
Adrian Savage is a dad, a geek, and an entrepreneur. He left the corporate world 10 years ago and now specializes in email deliverability: how to avoid the spam folder and double your open rates. He's helped many well-known names improve their email performance and is also the founder and creator of Deliverability Dashboard, which quickly and simply shows how well your emails are performing and how you can get even more people seeing and opening your emails.
- Why avoiding the spam folder has gotten harder to do in recent years
- The four keys to ensuring your emails get delivered
- The only definition of “spam” that truly matters
- What a “recycled spam trap” is and how to avoid it
- The good news—even if your email marketing habits haven't been great
- The importance of being yourself in your emails
- How Adrian's tool, Deliverability Dashboard can help you improve your open rates
SPI 498: Step by Step: How to Make Sure Emails Don't End Up in Spam with Adrian Savage
Email. If you're running a business, you need an email list. But not only do you need an email list, you need to send the right emails. But not only do you need to send the right emails, you need to make sure these emails are getting into your audience’s inbox, into your subscribers' inbox. And as much as I often talk about the fact that email is the way to go—and it is the way to go, I only wish I had started my email list sooner, and I hope that you start one soon if you haven't already. But I talk about that with regards to and in comparison to things like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, how there's algorithms that are blocking the audience that has said they wanted to hear from us, but not everybody who is subscribed on these channels hear from us.
And the same actually goes for email, but it's a very different reason. It's not just algorithms like YouTube or Facebook controlling it; it's spam. And you can send an email, you could broadcast that email out or even an autoresponder, and it may not end up in a person's inbox, and that's not good. However, if you can solve this problem, you can increase your email deliverability, you can increase your open rates, you can increase click-through rates and all the important metrics that will help you actually grow revenue in your business.
And today, we're talking with Adrian Savage from Deliverability Dashboard to give us literally specifics, and a whole bunch of them. And he also goes, "Here are the two things that you need. If you're going to listen to, and only do two of these things, here are the things you need to do to make sure you get most of your emails, if not all of them, into your subscribers' inboxes. Here's what you do." If that's not a good setup for an episode, I don't know what is, because this stuff is important. It affects your revenue, it affects all the hard work you're doing to build your email list.
And if you haven't gotten an email list yet, this will set you up for success right from the start. So I hope you enjoy this episode. Let's cue the music.
Welcome to the Smart Passive Income Podcast, where it's all about working hard now, so you can sit back and reap the benefits later. And now your host, he's got 99 problems, but a podcast ain't one: Pat Flynn!
What's up, everybody? Pat Flynn here, and welcome to episode 498 of the Smart Passive Income Podcast. I'm here to help you make more money, save more time, and help more people too. And increasing your email deliverability will enable you to do that. And I have none other than Adrian Savage today to tell us exactly how to do that. All the different ways, including the most important ways, so that you can walk away from this episode, implement a couple of things, and bada-bing-bada-boom, skadoosh, bow, whatever those sounds mean, you're going to increase your emails sending over and actually landing in your subscribers' inbox.
Does that sound good? If it does, let's get started. Here we go.
Adrian, welcome to the Smart Passive Income Podcast. Thanks for joining us today.
Hey, Pat. Thanks. It's great to be here.
I'm excited to chat email with you. Email is a very important topic. My audience knows this because I've talked about it so much, but we don't often talk about deliverability and making sure that our emails get, not in a spam folder or not the promotional folder, but in front of our audience's eyes. And we're going to talk about all this for sure, and all your secrets and all the fun things, and you have some tools and other things that we can mention as well. But I'd love to go back into your story just a tad here in terms of, why did you get so interested in email in this way in the first place?
I guess I've always been a geek since I was seven years old. And I did the usual thing, went to school, got a job, but it was about 10 years ago I got into the whole online business area. Started working, I became a marketing automation expert, so I worked with tools like Infusionsoft and things like that and helped people automate their sales and marketing. And one of the biggest challenges that I found time and time again, was people were sending their emails out and they weren't getting through to their audience. But in the early days, when I was a little bit wet behind the ears, I struggled to help these people, and sometimes I lost clients because they couldn't get their emails through.
And as time went on, then I noticed it became a fairly consistent problem that people were having, so I made it my business to start learning about how to actually improve things. And back then, things were very different, and I had to come up with different software solutions that actually helped. But then as the world has changed, I've just stayed up to date with that. Because at the end of the day, as a business person, then, the tighter your niche is, the easier it is to go and find people. And I found it was much easier to help people with email deliverability than it was to just be another one of those marketing automation guys. And it was something that I loved, it's something that I was good at. And the rest is history, I guess. It's been always then keeping as close as I can to the forefront of what's going on and just loving it.
That's awesome. And this is a classic example of the riches are in the niches and niching down and really honing in on a problem that most of us marketers do have, and one that's often overlooked. And it's so true because when you really think about it, you can set up all your automations, you could have the best systems in the world and upsells, downsells, follow-ups. But if nobody's getting those emails in their inbox, then it's all for nothing.
Yeah. It doesn't matter how good your copy is. You could hire one of the best copywriters in the world, but if you're making a few mistakes that mean your emails go into the spam, then you've wasted that investment. You could be spending tens of thousands of dollars on Facebook ads, and if people aren't getting the emails that you follow up with, then again, you're burning money. So it really does matter.
So I know that in the world of social media, for example, there's algorithms that we're fighting against. There's a lot of calculations and things that are changing that are controlled by other companies: Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, whatever. And this is why email is so powerful and why it's so attractive because we still control the email front. However, we're still battling against something or else all of our emails would be shown by everybody. What are we up against here? Why aren't all of our emails actually ending up in people's inboxes?
This is where we still are up against the algorithms, it's just it's not Facebook and people like that, this time we've got the big three email giants. We've got Google that control more than 50% of the world's email boxes now, we've got Microsoft that are still hanging in there, you've got Hotmail and Office 365 and that kind of thing. And Yahoo are who are the third great big giant in the email world. And between the three of those, they will often control 75 to 80% of someone's entire email list. So it means that we've really got to understand what they're looking for, we've got to play by their rules.
Because the nice thing is, there's not as much control as, say, Facebook have got—you're not about to be thrown off a social media platform—but you have still got to understand that if you do certain crazy things, they're going to sit up, they're going to notice. And they can decide if they don't like you to send every single email that you send out, they can put it into spam. So you have got to understand what they're looking for, but the good news is that it's not as difficult as it is to, say, keep on top of Facebook's algorithm and all that kind of thing. Anyone can avoid the spam folder as long as they follow a few simple things.
Okay. So can we talk about what these few simple things are? I think everybody's itching. Is it just a matter of like, don't use a swear word in the subject line, or is it…? I'm sure it's much more than that, but give us the rundown.
In the good old days, it was pretty much that. It was, make sure you send them a decent platform and watch your content. Now, it's coming to, I guess there's four main things that I focus on now, the four pillars of email deliverability. And the way I get people to remember this is they spell out the word RACE, and we've got reputation, we've got authentication, we've got content, and we've got engagement. And the main thing is reputation, because obviously, as in business, as in whatever you're doing, reputation really matters. If you've got a lousy reputation, no one's going to want to listen to you. What the big mailbox providers are doing is they're pretty much monitoring what you're doing, what you're sending, and most importantly, they're monitoring how people react to you.
And if they see people marking your mails as spam or ignoring your emails or deleting them or whatever, the more they see that, the more they're going to write down your reputation in their little book they've got, and they'll say, "Hey, Adrian is sending out emails that nobody's reading, he must be sending garbage out. We're going to start putting his emails into the spam." So that's the simple version of it, but it means that everything you do has to be focused on preserving and improving your reputation as much as possible.
Okay. So let's start with reputation, then we'll move on to authentication, then content, then engagement. Let me just write this down so we can follow. So this will be the journey here in the podcast episode. Thank you, by the way, because I don't see a lot of people talking about this stuff. Usually, it's how to get more emails. I talk a lot about what to send when you get those emails, but again, if they're not being found in the inbox, then okay, what's the point? So reputation. You gave us a little bit of a definition of what that is, but what can we specifically do, tactically do, to increase our reputation or not start to go the opposite direction?
The first one, and this is the real obvious one, is just use common sense. Don't do crazy things. That's the starting point, because if you do something and it's feels like it's trying to game the system or something like that, then it probably is and you'll probably get found out.
What would be an example of that, like a way to—a thing not to do that would hurt your reputation?
A good one is, don't download email addresses from the internet. That's probably the best one. Because some people still do that, and the only way that you can get ahead now with your email list is to only send emails to the people that have specifically asked you to send something to them. I'm not going to do down the people that sell email lists and things like that because sometimes there are legitimate purposes for that. But on the whole, if you haven't acquired an email address from someone who's specifically said, "I want you to send me emails," then you're likely to suffer reputational problems. Because statistically, if you buy a list and send emails to those people that haven't given you permission, you're much more likely to get spam complaints and things like that because they just didn't want the email.
And the only definition of spam that matters in the eyes of the mailbox providers is whatever the recipient thinks it is. So if you send something out and people think it's spam, you're going to get treated like a spammer by Google and co. So it's about only send people the things that they've asked for and meet those commitments. If you say you're going to mail someone once a week, and then you suddenly start mailing them daily, you're not meeting your commitment and they might get upset, they might hit the spam button. Because pretty much everything we do, we need to make sure that we are not increasing the risks of being reported for spam by lots of people. That's the starting point.
But then the other side of it as well is, there's all these businesses out there like Spamhaus and Cloudmark, and other companies, and they operate email addresses that are called spam traps. And if you send an email to a spam trap address, then you as a sender, your details are going to get—they will appear on block lists that tell the world, "Do not process emails from this person because they've done something naughty." So you've got to be really squeaky clean as much as possible, and you avoid spam trap addresses by not downloading them from the internet. You know, don't scrape addresses off the internet; that's pretty much the worst thing you can do. And if you do buy addresses or anything like that, you've got to really trust the person that's providing the data—much better to control it yourself.
And then the other thing you need to do is you need to mail your audience regularly because that way, you'll avoid hitting what's called a recycled spam trap. And that's where, supposing 10 years ago I had a Hotmail address and I stopped using it, Microsoft canceled my account. And then for the next few months, if anyone tried to mail me, they'd receive an error saying this mailbox doesn't exist. And if you're using any kind of email marketing tool that will automatically take that address off so you can't mail it anymore. But then a few months later, what Microsoft would have done is they would open that address back up again, but it was no longer being used by me; it was being used by Microsoft to catch the people that weren't looking after the hygiene of their email list properly. So anyone who keeps sending mails out to people that no longer exist or don't want to read them.
And if you send enough emails to those kinds of spam trap addresses, again, you're going to end up on some kind of block list. Not as quickly as if you just download a scraped address, but it's still something you have to be careful of. So there's all those sending practices for what can really damage your reputation the most. And then apart from that, it's pretty much, I guess if we summarize it, we're saying, firstly, only send to the people that have told you they want to. Secondly, manage your list carefully. And then third, meet your commitments. And those are the main things that are going to preserve and hopefully improve your reputation.
That's really great. Super helpful. Thank you for that. I never encourage people to get email addresses other than ways that they are providing value up front first and they know it's coming. I mean, this is by law now, with a lot of different countries and with privacy laws and whatnot. You should never just scrape emails and send broadcasts. It's okay to find an individual email for an individual business and send like an individual email, but anytime you start broadcasting outward through these tools and stuff, you're taking huge risks, absolutely huge risks.
If you perhaps were practicing not so great strategies in the past, maybe you did get some emails that maybe you shouldn't have, but you're good now, you've confessed and you're ready to get better—is it a start-over situation, or can you look good again in the eyes of the big three?
Yeah. The good news is, this is where email is totally different from social media, because if Facebook decides to ban you, there is no judge, there's no jury, they're just executioner and that's it. With email, even Google, if they put you in Google jail for a while, then you might have to wait awhile, but as long as you clean up your act and start doing the sensible things I am going to discuss when we get to the next few stages, then absolutely, you can rescue that reputation. Some people have tried to just get around all of that by just switching their emails and sending them from a different domain.
But here's the thing, particularly Google, but the others are pretty much caught on their heels, they are clever enough now to work out what you're up to because Google have invested millions in artificial intelligence, and they're scanning every single email that you send. I guess a simple way of describing it is, they're kind of fingerprinting everything that you do. And if you send something from one domain and then just switch to another, the chances are, they're going to follow you, they'll join the dots, and you might be okay on day one, but by about day three, then your reputation with Google is going to be back down in the gutter again.
So it really is, the only way you can really do this is to just like you say, confess your sins, clean your act up, and then you've just got to be a very good boy or a very good girl for a while and just send in the way that I'm going to talk about in a bit. And that will get things back. It takes a bit of time, but I've worked with clients where their Google reputation is right on the bottom rung of the ladder and you can recover it. You just have to be patient.
Yeah, that's super helpful. Thank you. And before we move on to authentication, I know you also have a software company that helps with this. Quick plug, where can people go to learn more real quick before we move on to next part?
So I've created a software called Deliverability Dashboard, and that looks at the way that people send their emails and gives lots of really cool reports on how you can improve the performance, improve the likelihood of getting your emails into the inbox, avoiding the spam folder. And you can sign up by going to DeliverabilityDashboard.com. And it supports the majority of popular email marketing platforms.
Nice. Awesome. Thank you. Okay, authentication. What is that exactly?
Okay. So if there were only two things that I was going to ask people to take away from the podcast, then this is the first one of those. And the good thing with authentication is it's normally a one-off thing. You only need to set this up once when you're just setting up your email platform, or if you haven't done it yet, then hopefully about half an hour after you've listened to the podcast, because this is really important.
Authentication is all about telling the world that you are sending legitimate emails. And this is the one thing you can do that sets you apart from the spammers. The spammers who are trying to send emails from whoever that they're pretending to be someone else, they can't control authentication, but you as a legitimate sender of email, you've got control over your domain. My domain, I've got @deliverabilitydashboard.com, and I can publish information on my domain that says, here are the platforms that I trust to send emails on my behalf, and here is a special public key that I'm going to share that allows my email platforms to digitally sign every single email that I send out.
And those two things together, then that's telling the Googles and Microsofts of this world that that email that's come out with my name and my email address on it really did come from me. Because let's face it, you could actually send an email from a White House email address if you wanted using any email marketing platform, because you choose what email address you put in, what email address you're sending from, but you can't authenticate an address that you don't own. So what we have to do is, I'm going to mention a couple little acronyms now. So this is the only geeky part of the discussion, I hope.
I like acronyms, so it's all good.
So the first one, this is the really important one, is DKIM; stands for domain keys identified mail. And this is how you get your email platform to digitally sign every single email that you send. And depending on which email platform you use, there'll be a different thing to look for. It might be email authentication, it might be DKIM. You need to be careful because some platforms tell you that they're handling authentication for you. That isn't strictly true. What they're actually doing is they're authenticating their side of the sending process, because when you use any email marketing platform, they put their information on and then on top of that, you put your email address as well.
So if they're handling authentication, they're only handling their bit, and it means that unless you've set it up yourself at one point, you're going to be sending out emails that are not signed by you. So make sure you find that email authentication, DKIM, whatever it is and make sure that you set that up. If you need help, then find someone who can help you do it, because it is probably the most important thing that you can do as a one-off that will make the difference between hitting the spam folder, hitting the inbox. That's the bit that you do in your email platform.
And then the second side of this then. So we talked about signing the emails; now we're going to tell the world which platforms we trust to send our emails out. Because, my example, I use G Suite to send my personal emails, I use Keep to send my automated marketing emails, and then I use Teamwork Desk to send my help desk emails out. So those are the three email platforms that I use. And this is where SPF comes into play, which stands for sender policy framework. And what that does, is it, again, it's a one-off thing where we're just publishing in our domain, we're saying, we trust these platforms to send emails on our behalf.
So then if an email from my address comes from some other platform that I haven't told the world that I trust, it gets treated with a bit more suspicion. And again, this is a one-off thing. With SPF, you don't need to do anything on your email platform, it literally is as simple as publishing something inside your domain records, and once that's done, then you're then telling the world. Really, really important. If you do those two things, then that's going to make the biggest difference as to whether or not you'll land in the spam folder or the inbox, so very important.
A little bit technical: where should people go to learn how to do that? I would imagine that, at least for the first one for DKIM or email authentication through your service provider, checking out the help desk there or reaching out to live chat there would make sense. What about for SPF? Where would one go to just figure that out?
SPF is difficult because you have to put multiple bits. It's like putting together a little jigsaw because you need to work out what the right little bit of code is for each platform you're using. And the biggest mistake people make sometimes is they publish more than one record. You can only have one SPF record, and it must list all the platforms that you use. What I would tend to say with that, there are guides that you can Google for it. The thing with SPF in particular is if you make a mistake with that, you might actually increase the chance of going to spam.
So if you're not 100% sure, then it’s always worth—that's one place where I'd say maybe get professional help and find someone who specializes in that. And a little tip there is, in most cases, nine times out of 10, don't ask your web guy or your web person to do it because those are the ones that I've often come across that have been slightly messed up. So it's worth finding someone who specializes on the email front. I can always recommend people who can do that. It's something I used to do, but I'm focusing a lot more now on the strategic side of things. But I can always recommend the ways of doing that if needed. But you've got to be a little bit careful.
Where can people connect with you, like on social media, in case they're curious?
The best thing on social media is facebook.com/adriansavage. You can follow me on there. I'm almost at my friend limit, but I'm still accepting friends, and if not, follow me, send me a PM, whatever. And then there's also a Deliverability Dashboard Facebook group as well, where I hang out, and I can answer questions in there as well.
Okay. I would imagine there are perhaps some YouTube videos. You might have to find them, and probably places like Upwork might have availability for people who specialize in this. So there's a lot of places, but we won't get into any more of the technical stuff, because right now we're going to go into content. And content, I think, is a thing that we're most familiar with when it comes to email, because it's what we see, it's what we put out there into the world. But what about our content determines whether or not we have high deliverability rates or lower deliverability rates.
If we had about three hours to spare, maybe we would cover about 10% of this; there is just so much on content. Now, this is where the world has evolved so much because if we wind the clock back five years, it was really easy. It was like you said, avoid the swear words, don't mention Viagra, don't mention free. There was a list of 250 spammy words that, in theory, if you avoided those words, you'd land in the inbox. Now, it was never quite that simple, but the challenge we've got now is the spam filters have really, really evolved since then. So there's a lot more to it. Now, I already mentioned about how Google and Cove invested in all this artificial intelligence.
And this is what makes it so interesting now because you just can't really second guess what they're doing. And this is probably the best example of where gaming the system doesn't work anymore. In the good old days, people would change the word free and put FR..EE and try and mask the words that they thought were landing them in the spam folder. And if you do that now, then that's just a one-way ticket to the spam folder, because Google is smart enough to realize that you're not only using a word that they might not like—and actually free isn't a bad word, I'm just using that as an example now—but they're also realizing that you're trying to be a little bit too clever, and they don't like people trying to be more clever than they are.
So with the content, it really does—it's a lot more around just being a lot more authentic. There's four things that I'll talk about with content. And I don't think there's many people in America called WILF, but WILF is an old English name that I don't know where I came across it, but in this case, it stands for four things; it's words, it's images, it's links, and frequency. And the words are what we've started talking about already, and really it's about, don't overthink this stuff. If you're going to send the emails out, send them the way that you’d talk to someone.
You know, don't try and work out how people want to hear from you. Just be you, have a conversation with people, make it sound personal, make it sound like they're actually... make sure you're having a one-on-one conversation with them. If you send an email to someone and it's not going to be a formal email, it's going to be more—you know, I think in most cases now, if we're sending emails to our audience, we're being reasonably informal. So make sure that you're talking to someone the way that you'd be having a conversation with them, make sure you're sharing things, make it about you.
And just the more the email that you send looks like it's been sent from your Outlook, or Gmail, or your phone, or whatever, and the more it sounds authentic, the more likely it's going to land in the inbox, because it's about what you've got to share. That really, really matters. You know, don't send a whole great big sales page in an email because that's not how it works anymore. It's all about if you're trying to put lots of, you know, change in the color and the font size and things like that, and before you know it, then the email looks like it'd be more at home on Times Square or Vegas or something like that. The interesting thing, I'll talk about images in a second, but in general, the plainer the email looks and the more it looks like a personal email, the more likely it is to land in the inbox.
And in most cases, the shorter, the better. Don't cut it down at the expense of not getting your message across, but don’t waffle unnecessarily because also let's face it, people's attention spans are dropping anyway. So the briefer you can get your message, the better. But again, with anything to do with content, I often get asked, should I do this or should I do that? And the thing that I'll stress is, there's no actual hard and fast rules because you don't want to follow a rule at the expense of spoiling your message. That's the thing to remember the most.
Yes, the images and links I'll talk about in a second, they matter, but if you can't get your message across without having a certain number of images or certain number of links, then don't try and squeeze a square peg into a round hole. Still do it the way you need to, just be aware that maybe it might impact things a little bit. But people get paranoid about this stuff. And we don't want to put a load of rules around that are going to hold everybody back. This is about just understanding if you can tweak it, then great; if not, then don't sweat it. I think that's the important thing, because we never know exactly what Microsoft and Google are looking for with the words.
So sometimes the only way you can be sure is actually send a few test emails out and see what happens. The only caveat that I'll mention though, is, because this is a big way that email has evolved, is that no two people ever get the same email experience anymore. If I send you an email and it lands in your spam folder, there's nothing to say it's going to land into someone else's because it lands in your spam folder, not just because of reputation, but also because of the way that you have interacted with that person in the past. So if you're on my mailing list and you're a busy guy and you can't open my emails, then after a while, your mailbox provider will realize that you haven't been reading my emails, and it will probably start putting them into spam.
And that's not because of anything wrong with the emails necessarily, it's just because you weren't engaging, so that means that you can't learn too much from the email tests that you send, because just because it does go into spam, it may be okay for everybody else still. So sometimes all you can do is send your emails out, see what happens and look at the big picture over a few days, a few weeks, a few months, or whatever. The thing with content is, the only way you can be sure is to actually experiment, try things out, see what happens, but don't compare yourself with other people—only compare yourself to what you did last week, or whatever.
Thank you. Let's quickly cover images and links, something that—I mean, this is probably the most questions I get about, should I include images or should I not include images? And like you said, I think you've already provided a great answer for that—there's no set rule—but I'm sure if I bombarded my email with 50 images, it wouldn't come across well versus one, or maybe none.
But the thing again to bear in mind is every now and then something come along that completely goes against that. Who doesn't get emails from Amazon in their inbox? And that's always got images, links, the whole nine yards. Again, there's no hard and fast rules, but the testing that I've done, the testing that lots of other people have done is very clear that the more images you've got in an email, the more likely you're going to go into the junk folder, and the more links you've got in an email, the more likely you are as well.
I've fallen out with a lot of graphic designers when I say this next bit, because one of the most—quickest ways that an email will be viewed as a promotion by Google is if it has one of these graphical banners at the top of the email, because let's face it, if you're sending an email to your auntie Susan, it’s not going to have a great big banner at the top of the email in most cases. And as soon as you do anything like that, it looks like a promotional mail. And if it looks like a promotional mail, they'll treat it like that. So don't do that, start it off—cut to the chase, Dear Pat, hey, Pat, whatever, then share your message.
If you need images in the middle of the email to reinforce or illustrate things, that's absolutely cool, but only put them in if they're going to actually add value, don't do it for the sake of it. Minimize the number of images. If you can manage three or fewer, perfect. And the same with links, the more links you've got, the more likely it looks like a promotion. And probably the biggest mistake I see people make is they put lots of little icons of all of their little social media links at the bottom of their email signature. Before you know it, you've got Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, five images, five links, and suddenly you're in the promotions tab.
And let's face it, if you're sending an email out and you've got some call to action saying, "Click here to read my blog or whatever," do you really want people going through to your social media and getting distracted from the message in your email? No. If you want to promote your social media, you do that in a separate email, stick to the primary subject; in your email signature, just the minimal information, maybe how to contact you if that's appropriate, but the fewer images, the fewer links the better.
And also be careful, don't ever mention domains or put links into websites that you don't control, because if let's supposing, YouTube is a perfect example, they often end up on a block list, not because YouTube is bad, but because people share links to YouTube videos, people don't like them, they hit the spam button, and suddenly for a few days, YouTube is listed on the block lists.
So you have to be very careful because you can't be certain when you're linking somewhere, whether it's got a good domain reputation or not. So, much better to only link to content that you're in control of because the chances of your own website getting block-listed are fairly low as long as you're doing all the sensible things. So the actual links themselves really matter. That's probably enough on images and links, I think?
Yeah, I think you've definitely crushed a lot of myths for us there. And I see it too all the time, all the social media links, that makes sense. If a person wanted to follow you on social media, they'd be able to get you. I've never clicked on one of those, beneath somebody's name in a signature. That's true.
Very last thing very quickly with content then is the F in WILF, which is frequency. And the simple thing is, the more frequently you send emails to the people that want to receive them, the better you're going to do. In the good old days, you could send an email newsletter out once a month and that would be sufficient, but these days, the mailbox providers are looking for consistency and they're looking for engagement, which we'll talk about in a second. And the more frequently you send emails to the people that are reading them, the better it's going to look for your engagement.
And also, looking statistically for a second, if you're sending out an email three times a week, then you're a lot more likely to reach more of your audience quickly than if you're sending one email a month. In the month of February this year, I sent out an email every single day to my audience, and by the end of February, 75% of my audience had opened one or more of those emails. If I'd been sending out one email a month, it would have taken me probably 15 to 16 months to reach the same number of people, by which time half of them would have probably lost interest and gone away anyway.
So maybe I'm not saying send an email out every single day—if you can, then great, if you've got enough to talk about—but the more frequently you can share some really cool value, the more people are going to love you, and more importantly, the more the mailbox providers will love you as well.
That's what we want to happen. Now, to finish off, you'd mentioned engagement. What does that mean in the world of email specifically, and how do we help ourselves in that realm?
I said there were two things to take away from the podcast. We've talked about authentication; this is the other biggie. Engagement is the one biggest thing. And while authentication is something that you just set up once and pretty much forget about it, engagement is the bit where if you're not working on this already, you need to change the way you think, you need to change the way that you act, because everything that you do depends on engagement. And by engagement we're talking about, are people reading your emails? Are they opening them? Are they clicking the links? Are they actually reading them properly? Or are they just deleting it without reading?
And the worst thing you can do, the worst sign of disengagement is if you send something out, it lands in the spam folder, and no one rescues it. So, bearing in mind that if someone signs up to your email list for the first time, then that's the only chance you've got sometimes to get them to rescue you from the spam, because if they don't rescue that first email, the rest of them are programmed to go there forevermore. So when someone signs up for your email list, normally you have some page saying, "Hey, thanks for signing up." Make sure you make it very clear on there that they need to go and check the spam folder and they need to rescue that email, because if they don't do that then, you will probably never get to them in the future.
So that's the one most important thing. And then what we've got to do then is we’ve just got to do everything we can to maximize the number of people engaging, because let's talk about open rates for a second. Because we've not mentioned that yet. A lot of people ask me, “What is a good open rate?” And the thing is, there's not actually a good answer to that question because there's just so many variables. What I will say, kind of as a joke, but it's not really, is I can double anyone's open rates in seconds. And the way I'm going to do it is I'll just go and look at their email database, we'll find the half of that email list that haven't opened anything for the longest, we'll stop mailing them. We will only focus on the other half.
So let's say you're sending out 10,000 emails, and 1,500 people opened them. That's a 15% open rate. We then send to the 5,000 people that have opened most recently, the same 1,500 open, and that's a 30% open rate. I've just doubled your open rate just like that. Now, it doesn't change the number of people seeing your emails, but what it does do is it tells Google and Microsoft and Yahoo and everyone else that what you're sending out is of greater interest. The higher they see the open rate, the more likely they are to increase your domain reputation. The better your reputation, guess what? The next email you send is more likely to land in the inbox.
And if you’re paying—this is going back to what we said about Facebook ads and things like that—if you're paying for leads, and then you haven't got a good reputation, then as much as half of those leads that you're paying for are not going to see your emails because they're going into spam. So if you're managing your engagement and only sending emails to the people that have opened something recently, that is the one biggest thing you can do that increases your open rate. As time goes on then, as well as the percentage going up, the number of people seeing the emails goes up as well.
And this is what I call the virtuous circle. It's just a continuous thing going ‘round where it's just always getting better. But it does take a little bit of a shift in mindset because lots of people say to me, "Hey, but if I mail this guy that didn't open anything for six months, maybe he'll still buy from me." And the thing is, yes he might, but if you're mailing the people that have engaged recently, and then you start also mailing the people that haven't opened anything for ages, what you'll see is that the chances of the engaged guys seeing your emails is about 10% lower, maybe more than that, than if you were just mailing the engaged guys separately.
So what that means is, every time you mail all the people that haven't opened anything for months and months, the chances are that the other people won't be seeing your emails. So yes, you might get a couple of percent extra people by mailing everybody, but you're probably losing 10% on the other side of it. So it really is a tough thing that you've got to know. I'll make no apology, I'm going to get my reference to the Disney Frozen movie in there: you've got to let it go, you've got to stop mailing those people, because it's going to hurt you more than it helps you.
And there is always that bit of fear and loss, but I've got the numbers, I've got the stats, I haven't worked with a single client where we've done this, where they haven't had better performance. It just takes a little bit of time, and you do have to have—it's a bit of a leap of faith.
Yeah. It sounds like it. And it almost leads me to believe that a continual purging of your email to remove those perhaps who haven't engaged with you in a while is a very smart thing to do.
How often should we be doing that?
If you're doing it manually, then minimum of once a month. Now, this is the main focus of what Deliverability Dashboard does, it tells you how well you're managing your engagement. There's a free email health score that anyone can use that says, if you were to score where zero is terrible and 100 is great, and it will tell you how to improve that score. And there's no secret that the way to improve that health score is just to improve the way you manage your engagement. Stop mailing the people that have engaged too long ago; focus on the other people.
And there's an extension to Deliverability Dashboard that actually automates that process. So if you can do it every single day, then great. The best practice I'd recommend is if someone gets to 30 days and they haven't opened anything from you in that time, send them a little tickle email saying, "Hey, are you still there?" If they get to 90 days, you want to send them a few more emails; it’s called a re-engagement sequence. The first email will be, say, "Hey, are you still there?" The second one, maybe some of the way of getting them to respond somehow. And then that third email is, "Sounds like it's going to be goodbye then. I'm going to unsubscribe you if you don't respond to this email."
And you can automate that whole process, because once you get to 90 days, you don't want to be mailing those people anymore. Maybe if they're a past customer, you might hang onto them, but there's very few exceptions because if someone hasn't opened anything in three months, then they're very unlikely to come back after that.
Yeah, and the fact that if you do email them amongst everybody else who had just recently signed in, chances are those new people aren't going to see your emails as often as they would have if you're, like you were saying earlier. Wow, that’s a big—it’s a big eye opener.
It is. It makes a huge difference. And as I said, I can't think of a single example where someone has better managed their engagement where they had poorer results. It takes a little bit for everything to catch up sometimes, but it is totally worth it, every single time.
Wow. Adrian, thank you. This has been incredible. A lot of super actionable stuff and stuff that we can definitely think more about with relation to our email that we often don't get to talk about or hear about at all. So I appreciate that so much. Where can people go to get more information from you? I think you also said in the beginning, or at least before we hit record that you might have something also for those who are just starting out, who might not be able to connect everything together more technically. Give us all the things.
Yeah. So the best thing, everything I've talked about today, about reputation, authentication, content, engagement, I've got a simple checklist that you can download, a PDF file that takes you through the important things you really need to know. And you can get a copy of that totally free at DeliverabilityDashboard.com/checklist. Download that; that will have all the information you need. And then if you are using a platform that works with the health checklist, I'll explain how you can do that. And that gives you a bit more of a practical measurement of how well you're doing already.
But it's like you said, if people are just getting started, the best time to start managing your engagement was yesterday. If you're getting started right now, then cool. If you haven't done it yet, now's the time to do it, because it makes such a difference. There's a lot to take in in one go, but if you focus on those two things, just set up your authentication, and then just focus on sending emails to people that want to receive them and have opened recently. And that's the two biggest ways you can make the biggest impact.
Adrian, this has been super helpful. Thank you so much. DeliverabilityDashboard.com is where you need to go, or DeliverabilityDashboard.com/checklist for that checklist. Adrian, this has been a pleasure. Thank you so much for coming in and providing so much value today.
Pleasure. Thanks, Pat.
All right. I hope you enjoyed that interview with Adrian Savage, and he is savage for sure, for just making it rain today with so much knowledge. Thank you so much, Adrian. I appreciate you. And if you want to get that checklist again, to just help you get started, DeliverabilityDashboard.com/checklist, that's it, DeliverabilityDashboard.com/checklist. Check it out. And Adrian, thank you so much for coming on and dropping so much knowledge for myself and my team, and that includes everybody here in the audience. So thank you.
For those of you listening, I hope you enjoyed this episode. Let me know what you think, and let me know when you implement this stuff, and when it starts working for you, I want to hear about it, @patflynn on Instagram, or @patflynn on Twitter. When you implement one or two of these things and they start working for you, let me know, because I want validation that this stuff actually works for you as much as it's working for us. DeliverabilityDashboard.com/checklist. And of course all the links, all the things mentioned in this episode, the show notes, are available at SmartPassiveIncome.com/session498. Again, SmartPassiveIncome.com/session498.
Thanks again. I appreciate you, and make sure you subscribe because we got some fire episodes coming your way, so you don't want to miss it. Hit subscribe. Thanks so much. Peace out, take care, and as always, Team Flynn for the win.
Thanks for listening to the Smart Passive Income Podcast at SmartPassiveIncome.com. I'm your host, Pat Flynn. Our senior producer is Sara Jane Hess. Our series producer is David Grabowski, and our executive producer is Matt Gartland. The Smart Passive Income Podcast is a production of SPI Media. We'll catch you in the next session.
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