Q: How Do You Make Sure Your Emails Are Making It Into Your Supporters’ Inboxes? A: Deliverability!

Last week we hosted an Action Network deliverability training with our Director of Technology, Jason Rosenbaum.

If you missed the live training (or if you just want to watch it again!), check out the recording here. We’ve also distilled some of the key points (What is spam? What does good deliverability look like?) in this blog post.

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Watch the recorded training: https://recordings.join.me/enN_wXRuHU2BuxjauN5XtQ

What is spam?

The definition of spam has changed in the last few years. The question used to be “is this email unrequested?” Now it’s “is this email likely to be engaged with?”

While it’s still important to own your own domain, install SPF/DKIM, and generally avoid spammy content, these technical criteria are now just the baseline for good deliverability.

Now you also have to focus on engagement. Gmail, Yahoo, and other email systems are analyzing whether their users are engaging with your emails generally and individually.

If you send an email to an activist and they consistently don’t engage (open, click, reply, take action), after a while, your emails will be considered spam for that activist even if they never hit the spam button. Your organization’s relationship with that individual will be impacted.

On a larger scale, if you consistently send emails to activists who don’t engage with your content, your organization’s sender reputation will be negatively impacted, and more of your emails will be considered spam across the board.

What does good deliverability look like?

The metric most folks focus on is open rate, but clicks, unsubscribes, spams, and action rates are also key. We recommend that you work to maintain at least a 15% open rate over a 24-hour rolling period.

That means your deliverability looks good if, for example:

  • You send out one email on Thursday with a 15% open rate.
  • You send out one email on Thursday morning with a 20% open rate and another Thursday night with a 10% open rate (average is still 15%)
  • You send out an email on Wednesday night with an open rate of 25% and an email on Thursday morning with an open rate of 5%.

Note that if you’re struggling with deliverability, we recommend aiming for a 20% average to get things back on track.

Generally, you’re looking for trends. Take stock if you send out an email with wildly different stats, but really pay attention if your open rate starts to decline or your unsubscribe rate goes up over a period of time.

What can you do?

Basically, if you run a good email program, you’ll be fine. Send out good content to folks who engage with your program by clicking or opening your emails.

There are a few specific strategies that you can use to ensure you’re on course:

1. The Basics.

Make sure you own your domain and that you’ve installed DKIM. Reach out to us at support@actionnetwork.org to start that process, and check out our documentation here.

2. Opt in.

Make sure you are opting in all your lists. All the time. Like always. 100% of the time. If engagement is the most important indicator of good deliverability, sending emails to folks who’ve never heard of your campaign and did not give you permission to reach out is a great way to not only get zero engagement but also a bunch of folks hitting the spam button.

3. Engagement based targeting.

Email folks who engage with your emails! There are a few ways to build this into your digital program.

  • Option 1: Create a reactivation ladder that unsubscribes folks who don’t take action, open, or click your emails over X# of days (you get to choose, but we recommend 180 days or under). Check out the example ladder here. Feeling finicky about unsubscribing folks? Try adding an ‘inactives’ tag instead, but remember to exclude that tag in future emails!
  • Option 2: Create a query like the one below that segments your 180 day actives (folks who’ve opened, clicked, or taken action in the last 180 days). Use that query when sending out the majority of your emails. Send really well performing emails to your full list to re-engage them.
This ‘Actives’ query includes activists on your list who have opened, clicked, or taken action in the last 180 days.

Have questions? Reach out to us at support@actionnetwork.org. And make sure to sign up here to stay in the loop about future Action Network trainings!