Raise your hand if you’ve gotten this email from a subscriber: “Hi, your newsletter landed in my spam folder. Just wanted to give you a heads up!”
It’s a terrible feeling. Your newsletter, and all the work you put into it, didn’t make it into the main inbox. So what can you do? Yanna-Torry Aspraki is an email delivery specialist. Here, she answers questions about how to make sure your emails reach the main inbox—every time you send.
What is deliverability?
"Deliverability is the art—because it is an art—of getting an email into the inbox. We have this assumption that when you send an email to a valid email address, that the other person will get it. And it's not necessarily true. I like to compare it to social media. We kind of understand that if your picture on Instagram is interesting and people are engaging with it, it will stay on the feed longer, which means more people can see it.
Email works a little bit the same way. Engagement is just as important. If you don't deliver the email into the inbox, you won't have anyone to look at it, so we want to make sure that people do receive the emails and then also engage with it. There's no point in just sending emails that 1) don't get received and 2) readers don’t do anything with them."
What’s the first thing to understand about email deliverability?
"The first thing anyone should do is authenticate your email. That is like getting a social security number, which allows you to get a job and a credit card. When you're authenticating your email, you can prove that you're the one actually sending the emails and you can differentiate yourself from other people who might be pretending to be you. A lot of businesses believe that because they're very small, no one will use their domain to fish.
But often, the smaller the business, the less likely they are to be authenticated or to be monitoring spoofing. You would be very surprised how many emails can be sent out with your domain without you even knowing it. So by authenticating, you can ensure that everything is secured and at least if something does happen, you will know about it and you can do something about it."
How can I authenticate my email?
"The easiest way I tell people to do it is to contact the support team of the email service provider you're using. Ask, “Can you please get me the DNS records that I need to authenticate my email?” and they will send them to you. Then, you take that email and you copy paste it to your hosting provider or whoever has your DNS panel. (Sometimes you have GoDaddy, or something like Wix. Whoever has all those DNS entries.)
Then you contact the support team for your hosting provider and say, “Hello, my email service provider gave me these DNS entries. I dunno what I'm supposed to do. Can you please put them in my hosting and DNS panel?” And they will do it for you. That’s it: All you have to do is email two support teams."
What about on Substack or Revue?
"If you’re using their domain to send out your emails, there's no authentication to do. You’re creating an email address with them, and they're the ones that take care of it because they're the ones sending it out. But if you're using your personal domain name inside another tool that sends out emails for you, you need to do the authentication. "
I’ve heard two pieces of advice to increase deliverability. Are these true?
1.) Ask your readers to reply to your emails. Write prompts like, “Reply to me with your favorite food.” Does that work?
"For deliverability, (ie. avoiding spam) it definitely does. What bigger proof do you have that your email is wanted if people reply back to it?
The promotions tab is different. The promotions tab is filtered by how you present yourself. This is a computer, not a human that decides. Email service providers have this algorithm that is very complicated. They're looking at a billion things to decide where the email should go, not only to inbox or spam, but to promotions, or forums and so on.
So if you get people to reply back, which is great for your deliverability, it will help, but you may still go to promotion. (Especially if you're sending 90% of your list of spam traps and one guy replies back. That won’t be enough to save you.)
But if people are engaged and you're sending emails to people who want to buy your products, then you're showing me the spam filters and all the algorithms that people will want your email."
2.) What about purging your email list? Conventional wisdom is that the algorithms will publish you for having inactive subscribers.
"That is very good advice. Everyone is afraid to delete subscribers. What I usually suggest to people is to analyze their data after the end of the month, once a month, not only every six months, and clean your list."
Listen to the full interview on deliverability, and read further Newsletter Crew articles on DMARC, DKIM, SPF records, and more.