This playbook’s objectives are to:
- Create an inbox placement improvement plan.
- Learn how to use Everest to identify and fix deliverability issues.
- If you are a new Everest customer with no prior relationship with Validity, complete onboarding to ensure you are familiar with navigating and using Everest.
- Ensure you have completed the Everest Basic Set Up Guide.
It is recommended to complete the advanced setup guides. Delivery and engagement data will help diagnose deliverability problems.
- Everest Advanced Setup Guide 2: Sending Reputation (FBL Complaints, Microsoft SNDS and Google Postmaster integrations)
- Everest Advanced Setup Guide 3: Engagement (Pixel and ESP/sending platform integration)
Important! Be sure you know the subscription allotments based on your service tier and plan according to your sending frequency. You can find your subscription information by navigating to My Everest > Account Settings > Subscription.
- Common inbox placement challenges
- Important metrics related to effective inbox placement
- How Everest's Inbox Placement feature fits into your process
- Establishing baseline metrics
- Setting up alerts and anomaly highlighting
- Creating an inbox placement improvement plan
- How to use Everest to identify and fix inbox placement issues
- What to do next
Common sender challenges associated with inbox placement are:
- We want to be notified of potential inbox placement issues when they occur.
- We would like more guidance on how we can identify and fix issues to improve inbox placement.
- We need some guidance on how to improve our sending practices.
By using Everest’s Inbox Placement feature and fixing deliverability problems, senders see improvements in:
- Inbox placement rate
- Delivered rate
- Open rate
- Click rate
Open and click rates are directly affected by your delivered rate and inbox placement rate. The higher your inbox placement rate, the more likely a subscriber will engage with your email.
- Inbox placement rate
- Delivered rate (ESP integration required)
- Open rate (ESP and Pixel integration required)
From your ESP
- Delivered rate
- Open rate
- Click rate
A traditional email marketing process consists of three phases: Pre-Send, In-Flight, and Monitoring. Understanding deliverability performance metrics across the email ecosystem is vital to maximizing the return on your email investment.
- Inform your email campaign strategy with Everest’s Competitive Intelligence
- Plan campaign
- Select target subscriber list
- Design campaign
- Validate target subscriber list using Everest’s List Validation
- Test campaign design using Everest’s Design & Content
- Send your campaign to subscribers and the Everest seed list
- View your campaign’s inbox placement, spam, and missing results using Everest’s Inbox Placement
- Monitor engagement metrics using Everest’s Engagement, your ESP, or internal sending platform.
- Monitor sending reputation metrics using Everest’s Monitoring to understand the deliverability impact.
- Monitor DMARC compliance to identify unauthorized use of your domain and brand using Everest’s Infrastructure feature.
In order to determine if your efforts to improve inbox placement are working, you need to establish your baseline inbox placement metrics. Use historical data for your baseline metrics if available from your ESP or sending platform. If you do not have historical data, establish a baseline by calculating an average of your first 5-10 campaigns sent to the Everest seed list. Include other metrics important to your business as needed, such as total revenue and average order value. As you use Everest, compare campaign performance to your baseline. If you engage in A/B testing, be sure to record the results to compare with your baseline results as well.
After you establish your baseline inbox placement rates, get alerted to potential issues with Everest’s alerts and anomaly highlighting. You may choose to align the alert threshold values for consistency or choose an alert for email notification and an anomaly for UI notification based on individual needs and preferences.
Setting the correct alert values may require adjustments over time. Frequent alerts may be ignored and don’t provide value, so make sure you set the alert criteria appropriately for your sending practices and personal preference.
Inbox placement alert
Get notified when your inbox placement rate falls below a specified value.
- Login to Everest
- Navigate to My Everest>Alerts
- Click New Alert
- Enter description: Inbox Placement Alert
- Select the Inbox Placement Category
In the If my... field
- Select Inbox %
Select <= (less than or equal to) a value based on your baseline results.
- For example, if your baseline inbox placement rate is 90% and your campaigns generally achieve between 85% – 95% inbox placement, set your value to 85%.
- Select how you wish to be notified by toggling the options listed in the Notify me via section
Select alert frequency in the Run this alert section
- Many senders start with a daily alert and adjust as needed
- Click Save Alert
Setting up anomaly highlighting displays important and critical warning icons for your campaign in the Everest UI to help spot potential issues based on your criteria.
1. Login to Everest
2. Navigate to In-Flight and click on Inbox Placement
3. Click on Inbox Tests and then Inbox Settings
4. On the Display Preferences tab, scroll down the Inbox Tests: Anomaly Highlighting tile
5. Enter the thresholds for Inbox based on your baseline results.
- Be sure to check natural daily performance fluctuations to determine your range.
- If you are unsure what thresholds to use, start with a 5 percentage point difference for the important trigger and a 10 percentage point difference on your critical trigger.
- For example, if your baseline inbox placement rate is 90% and your campaigns generally achieve between 85 – 95% inbox placement, set your important inbox threshold to 85% and your critical threshold to 80%.
6. (Optional) Enter the thresholds for Spam and Missing based on your baseline results.
If you are unsure what thresholds to use:
- Set your important Missing threshold at 5% and the critical threshold at 10%. Missing seeds may indicate a block or an issue with sending to the seed list.
- Set the Spam important threshold at 10% and the critical threshold at 15%.
Mailbox providers use hundreds to thousands of static and dynamic data points to filter your email. There is no "easy div" you can press or single element you can fix to beat the spam filter and cause your email to reach the inbox. Your ability to reach the inbox is a direct result of a relentless focus on your subscribers needs and giving them the best experience with your brand.
Create an inbox placement improvement plan around the following three core elements. For each objective, create a goal and discuss how that goal can be reached for your organization.
1. Data quality
Improving data quality is your objective. Sending to valid subscribers that opted-in to receive your email increases the likelihood of reaching the inbox. Review the list hygiene playbooks for assistance on improving data quality.
- Everest List Hygiene Playbook: Beginner
- Everest List Hygiene Playbook: Intermediate
- Everest List Hygiene Playbook: Advanced
- Identify ways to increase opt-in consent from all subscribers.
- Send email to valid email addresses as identified by Everest's List Validation feature.
- Move away from (eliminate if you can) list purchases and list harvesting email addresses from websites.
2. Sending Reputation
Improving sending reputation is your objective. Sending reputation is a reflection of your overall sending practices that include data quality and engagement. Review the sending reputation playbooks for assistance on improving sending reputation.
- Everest Sending Reputation Playbook: Beginner
- Everest Sending Reputation Playbook: Intermediate
- Everest Sending Reputation Playbook: Advanced
- Commit yourself to sending best practices and mastering email marketing fundamentals.
- Proactively monitor reputation metrics to help you identify smaller problems before they become bigger problems.
Improving engagement is your objective. Subscribers that interact with your email on a regular basis are a powerful indicator to mailbox providers that you are a legitimate sender and not a spammer. Review the engagement playbooks for assistance on improving engagement.
- Everest Engagement Playbook: Beginner
- Everest Engagement Playbook: Intermediate
- Everest Engagement Playbook: Advanced
- Subscribers love a good deal, but fatigue can set in if all you do is send them discount offers. Look for other ways to engage your subscribers to help create an emotional connection to your brand.
- Look at metrics such as opens, clicks, complaints, and unsubscribes to tell you when you are engaging subscribers appropriately.
Use Everest as you execute on your plan to ensure the elements you have decided on for your business work as expected and give a good customer experience.
- Track performance data in Everest and compare with your baseline metrics.
Inbox placement Issues may be tactical and quickly resolved or may require strategic changes to your sending practices. By dedicating some of your time each day and week to monitoring deliverability performance, it becomes easier to identify what changes are needed to take your email program to the next level of success.
Identify top domains to prioritize your time
Obtain a list of your top 5 -10 domains you send email to regularly. For many B2C senders, Gmail, Microsoft, Apple, and Yahoo/AOL are top domains, followed by regional domains depending on your location around the world.
With limits on your time and resources, focus troubleshooting on the mailbox providers that have the biggest impact to your revenue.
Common causes of deliverability issues
Top mailbox providers use thousands of signals powered by machine learning to filter spam. Reaching the inbox is influenced by your industry, your business model, and your sending practices. There’s no “easy div” you can press to fix all issues, but there are common causes for deliverability issues that can be fixed.
Once an issue is identified, it can be difficult to determine how to fix the problem and know where to focus. Most deliverability problems at any mailbox provider are rooted in three areas:
Poor data quality
- Not using opt-in permission
- Bad syntax
- High number of invalid users
Poor sending reputation
- High complaints
- Sending to a large number of spam traps
- A large number of old and unengaged subscribers
- Sending too frequently
Poor subscriber engagement with your content
- Poor content strategy
- Poor content design
When you identify an issue with one or more of your campaigns. Prior to deciding on a fix, it helps to know if the problems involve long-term or short-term fixes.
- Consistently poor performance across multiple metrics and mailbox providers over a long period of time. Fixes should involve discussions with the marketing and sales teams as it may involve changes in your content strategy and design, mail streams, subscriber acquisition strategy, segmentation criteria, and may require website modifications.
- Sporadic poor performance across a few metrics and mailbox providers over a short period of time. Short-term changes usually don’t require discussion with the full marketing and sales team. Short-term fixes may include actions such as improving subject lines, creating better call-to-actions, and signing up with complaint feedback loops and suppressing complainers.
For guidance on troubleshooting deliverability problems, please read:
Identify deliverability trends
1. Login to Everest
2. Navigate to In-Flight>Inbox Placement
3. On the Overview page, change the date range to the last 90 days
4. Review the top 4 mailbox providers for trends and outliers
- Modify the date range as needed for shorter trend windows.
- You can select different mailbox providers based on your subscriber-base by clicking the customize div.
5. Locate the Inbox Placement Trends tile
a. Sort the Inbox column by clicking the column header to see which campaigns over the past 90 days had the lowest Inbox %.
- Look for patterns in the low performing campaigns such as recurring campaigns, segments, IPs, and domains
6. Click on the subject lines for each campaign to see additional detail.
a. Scroll down the list of mailbox providers to identify the low performers for each campaign and note any similarities. Look at the trend column for areas of concern.
- You may find consistent performance issues with high spam or missing with one or more specific mailbox providers.
- Compare the mailbox providers to your list of top 5-10 domains to help prioritize.
b. Locate the the Minutes to Receive (MTR) column on the far right for signs of throttling or mailbox provider network issues. Use your ESP or internal bounce reporting to confirm throttling or mailbox provider technical issues.
- If a technical issue is the cause, stop sending and try again in a few hours. If you continue getting a technical issue, stop sending for 24 hours and try again.
- If throttling is identified, look at the bounce codes to see if it is volume or reputation-based.
7. Click Diagnostics and review the results. Use the guidelines below to fix identified issues.
Message contains Text Version = no; Message Contains HTML Version = no
- There is nothing wrong sending a text or HTML only message if that is what you intended to send and what your subscribers want to receive. A best practice is to have multiple, readable options available for different email clients to reach subscribers that prefer one form of content over the other.
- Talk to your email administrator or ESP about coding your email with MIME multipart messages. This allows you to send multiple forms of your email to subscribers.
- If using MIME is not possible, one option is to ask subscribers in a poll or upon sign up if they prefer text over HTML and create a special segment of those subscribers preferring text email.
Raw Message Size (Excluding images)
- Message sizes over 102KB are clipped by Gmail which can impact how subscribers view your email. If our message size is over 102KB, look for opportunities to reduce the amount of text in your message. Focus on the key goal you want your subscribers to achieve upon reading your email.
Reputation & Authentication
- Blocklistings are usually caused by having too many complaints or sending to spam traps operated by the blocklist provider.
High complaints and spam traps indicate an issue with list quality or irrelevant content.
- Make sure you validate your list prior to sending your campaign using Everest’s List Validation.
- Check that all of your complaint feedback loops are working and that complainers are suppressed from future mailings.
- Check for any new sources of addresses obtained without subscriber consent. Do not send any more email to these subscribers.
- Ensure unengaged subscribers are suppressed from mailings after 90 days if inactivity.
- Ensure you brand name is in the friendly from address so subscribers recognize you
- Some blocklist providers remove blocklistings automatically after they stop seeing the bad behavior, Navigate to Monitoring>Reputation and view the full list of blocklistings.
- Request removal from a blocklist once you feel the cause has been fixed.
Google Postmaster Status
- 0%: Implement DKIM. If you have implemented DKIM, then there is a major problem with your configuration and often means your public key was not published correctly in DNS. Talk to your email administrator, ESP, or hosting provider to fix this problem.
- If your % is over 95%, then a specific MBP may be having trouble authenticating your email. This can be a temporary problem on their part so continue to monitor.
- 0%: Implement SPF or there is a problem with your SPF configuration which is usually incorrect syntax.
- 0%: Implement DMARC. If this value is less than 100% it usually means both SPF and DKIM failed or are out of domain alignment.
- Scores higher than 5 indicate likely spam filtering. Ensure you are following all industry best practices.
Microsoft Headers (SCL/BCL)
- Spam Confidence Level (SCL): A score higher than 5 means your message will likely be sent to the spam folder.
- Bulk Complaint Level (BCL): A score higher than 7 means your message will likely be sent to the spam folder.
- Ensure you are signed up with JMRP and suppress complainers.
- Make sure you send relevant content to subscribers that opt-in.
- Troubleshoot any identified Cloudmark issues, which are often caused by too many complaints and sending to Cloudmark spam traps
- Check any images identified as invalid and make sure they have a valid URL.
- Check any links identified as invalid and make sure they have a valid URL.
- Use Everest's Design & Content feature to help prevent invalid links appearing in your email.
Valid MX records
- MX records are required to receive email at a server. Mailbox Providers send bounce messages to your sending server, so if it does not accept those messages, it may indicate you are a spammer.
- Make sure your sending system server has a valid MX record. Most ESPs will never have this problem.
- Abuse.net is essentially a listing service for your contact information used by mailbox providers if they need to contact you.
- Submit your abuse@ or postmaster@ address to the Abuse.net database.
Valid List Unsubscriber Header
- Implement List-unsubscribe if you don’t use it.
- How to implement the List-Unsubscribe header
1. Continue to identify and fix deliverability issues for all future campaigns and use the Everest Daily Deliverability Checklist as you incorporate Everest into your email marketing workflow.
2. Start making improvements to your email program based on your inbox placement improvement plan. If you are unsure of where to start, start with improving your list hygiene and overall data quality.
3. Continue reading our other Everest playbooks to help take your email marketing program to the next level.