Foundations of Email Deliverability IV – Inbox Success

Fourth of four posts in the Email Deliverability Series

Save Time and Get to the Inbox

“Hey J – I just sent you an email at your personal email address. Can you check if you got it? Did it make it to your Inbox or did it go to Junk again? And how does it look on your phone?”

We’ve all been there. Asking around the office and setting up our own email seed list, then checking each one of the accounts to see where the message landed. Then, we ask our colleague next door to check the display on her PC and Android device to make sure it looks okay while we check it on a Mac, iPhone, and iPad, too.

This was the norm for a long time. Time consuming, sure. Important, absolutely.

Then one day I was at a user group meeting and someone showed us how they were using Litmus.com to check deliverability and render the email in a whole bunch of email clients at once. (BTW, Litmus is not in any way sponsoring me or this blog. It’s just a really cool tool.)

Then in 2018 Litmus partnered with Marketing Cloud to embed the email rendering element right inside the Marketing Cloud Email Studio workflow – saving us even more time – so we had to have it. The first day we sent a message into the Litmus system to check deliverability and had our eyes opened wide.

We learned that the majority of email service providers were flagging our messages as junk. It turns out that just having our Marketing Cloud IPs in our SPF wasn’t enough. And the DKIM signature wasn’t working.

We were using the Marketing Cloud Sender Authentication Package with a subdomain that a consultant helped setup for us years earlier. After some research, we found that we needed to put the subdomain in our From: addresses.

So, all the Sender Profiles needed to be updated to show that the messages were coming from someone@email.example.com, not someone@example.com. However, it’s also vital to set the Reply-To: settings to route responses back to the real addresses (e.g. someone@example.com). If you don’t setup the Reply-To so that messages go to a real address, Marketing Cloud won’t know where to route replies and the reply messages will get lost.  

Once we changed those settings, we tested our deliverability again and the messages were making it into the Inbox folders!  We found that the SPF alignment was working and the DKIM signatures were successfully authenticating, which made all the difference.

Email providers like Yahoo!, AOL, Gmail, Outlook.com and others take the SPF alignment and DKIM message signing seriously. Organizations really need to have a DMARC policy in place and the more strict the policy is, the more likely you are to make it to the Inbox (and stop other malicious actors from abusing your domain). Once that’s in place, you can also take advantage of BIMI. (More on SPF, DKIM, and DMARC in future posts or read this helpful, detailed document from M3AAWG.)

In summary, check the deliverability of your messages using a homegrown solution or a service like Litmus.com. Then, investigate the issues and fix them! Also, make sure to follow the tips I posted in the first, second, and third parts of this Foundations of Email Deliverability Series.

It’s a challenge to figure out deliverability and the world of email, so I started this blog with the mission to help others learn from my pain and make it easier for you to improve your situation. More tips, tricks and lessons learned coming up, so stay tuned.

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