How to Manage High Volume Sending and Protect Sender Reputation

Experienced marketers know that smart volume management is part of the sender reputation management, especially for high volume senders. If your list is smaller than 5000 emails, then this isn’t something you need to worry about and as long as you build your list overtime and increase sending volume gradually.  Also, if you or your organization is a sender with an established reputation and a history of high volume sending, the volume isn’t as big of an issue as campaign engagement and future deliverability.

You need to carefully manage your sending volumes in order to build up your sender reputation if you are:

  1. Just starting out with bulk campaigns for yourself or a client, or
  2. Haven’t engaged your list of 5k+ subscribers in the recent months
  3. Switching your sender domain, email address, and/or provider, possibly due to a “burnt” reputation in the past.

Why not blast a single email campaign to your entire list? Because if this volume of sending isn’t typical for your sender identity it will look suspicious to a mailbox provider (aka ISPs) because big changes in sending volume may indicate that a list hasn’t been grown organically (naturally), bur rather rented, purchased, or harvested via other means, and this can have a negative impact on email deliverability and inbox placement. So what should you do? Start by sending low daily volumes and build up volume over time – the idea is to send less than 1k emails per day per provider when you are just starting out, and ideally start with high quality messaging and high engagement subscriber segments.

High engagement on your early bulk campaigns will aid your sender reputation score and improve inbox placement rates on future campaigns. 

There are a many different ways you can break down your list:

  1. Segment your list based on a field like “Date Signed Up”, “Order Date”, or similar date or number based fields that indicate subscriber recency or loyalty, and start sending initial campaigns to your recently engaged or your most loyal customers.
  2. Based on demographics like age or gender, or a number-based field like “Member ID” with “greater/less than” condition.
  3. Based on past campaign engagement, e.g. anyone who “opened” any campaign in the last 14-21 days.
  4. Segment your list based on location. If you customize campaign send time based on subscriber local time you can get better engagement. The best time to send on week days is usually 6-10am local time.
  5. If bulk of the emails on your B2B list are not major providers, you can actually send a large campaign by simply segmenting out the top providers using an email domain check, e.g. if “domain is” or “domain is not”. See example in the screenshot below.

    segmentation based on email domain

    Segmenting based on email domain in BigMailer

Depending on your list size, you may choose to use and combine several of the methods listed above, and that’s perfectly fine. There is no one size fits all approach to building your domain reputation – you know your list best and can figure out the best strategy for yourself.

It may be frustrating to not be able to send to your entire list and put in all the extra effort, but the effort is worth it and will pay off via better long term deliverability, inbox placement, and most importantly your subscriber engagement with your email campaigns as a result.

Dedicated IP for Email Marketing – Do You Need It?

Dedicated IP for Email Marketing – Do You Need It?

If you work with email marketing campaigns you no doubt heard about dedicated IP (internet protocol) addresses. Perhaps you have been wondering about who uses them and whether you should considering using one yourself. In this article, we explain what they are for and list some reasons for when it makes sense to use them.

IP (internet protocol) address is a unique address that identifies a device (computer or server) on the Internet or a local network. When you start using a hosted transactional or bulk email marketing service, by default, your emails are being sent from a group of servers with different IP addresses, and that group of servers is shared by multiple senders like you. So your emails go out from a “shared IP pool” and the reputation of those shared IP addresses is shared as well. The IP reputation is one of the factors that influences email deliverability and inbox placement.

Lets make one thing clear – deliverability is not the same thing as inbox placement – an email in Spam folder is considered to be delivered. A lot of ESPs (email service providers) claim to have high deliverability, but that just means they have large server/IP pools to send high volume of emails from and avoid delivery blocking by ISPs based on volume of emails sent from a single server/IP. High delivery rate is nice, but you still need to place into subscriber’s inbox, which is much harder than getting your email delivered.

About Shared IP Pools

Most ESPs are responsible for managing (and protecting) the reputation of the IP addresses used by their platform. For that reason, many ESPs turn away customers if/when they determine that their use of the platform may negatively affect other customers. Some platforms (like Mailchimp) scan the email lists customers upload to automatically determine its quality and can suspend account or campaigns based on that data. Many providers have a manual campaign review step for all new customers, so it’s not even possible to send a bulk campaign as soon as you sign up. This type of customer filtering and platform protection by market leaders results in 2 things:

  1. Desired customer pool with high quality email sending practices
  2. Higher prices for the service, in return for better IP reputation

So when you use a market leader like MailChimp or CampaignMonitor, that cost up to x10 more than some of the lower cost providers, you pay for “good company” in addition to extra features (e.g. multivariate testing, landing pages, email template variety). However, the biggest factor in IP reputation is whether it’s blacklisted, which happens when emails sent from a given IP get flagged as “Spam” by the recipients. If the % of complaints is high enough, the IP gets blacklisted and may get blocked by ISPs. If the shared IP address isn’t blacklisted, the quality of senders you share it with doesn’t make as big of a difference.

Does it mean that low cost email providers have lower quality IP pools than market leaders? Yes, it does. Does it mean all your emails will go to Spam folder? No. Not if all other email deliverability factors signal quality.

IP Reputation as an Email Deliverability Factor

Lets review the factors that affect deliverability, they are:

  1. IP reputation
  2. Sender reputation (e.g. sender being your domain or exact email address the emails are sent from)
  3. Server and domain configuration (DKIM, SPF, tracking links, etc)
  4. Global engagement
  5. Content and format of the email (spam words in subject or message body, format – use of images, etc)
  6. Relative engagement for you (sender) versus other senders in the recipients inbox
email deliverability factors

Email deliverability factors

On the diagram above, the green box represents factors that vary and change more with each campaign sent and the square on the left with 4 factors are not subject to dramatic changes on a per campaign basis. So with IP address reputation being only 1 of several factors, it can be a deciding factor in inbox placement but it depends on the quality score of the other factors.

Who Benefits from a Dedicated IP?

So if you are a sender with established good reputation and high engagement history, and especially if you are sending low volumes of emails (less than 5,000 per day), you have a low risk of being affected by a switch of ESP from a market leader to a lower cost provider. However, getting a dedicated IP address can help ensure your ongoing high deliverability in the future, as your list grows and mailbox providers adjust their inbox placement algorithms.

If you are a high volume sender (send more than 10,000 emails per day) and perhaps have been experiencing deliverability issues with your current provider, switching ISPs might not give you an instant improvement unless you change some of the factors as well – get a dedicated IP address(es), improve list quality by removing invalid addresses, properly configure your domain for sending emails, invest in testing your email templates.

You can benefit from a dedicated IP address IF:

  • You are looking for a fresh start and looking to invest in building a strong email sender reputation.
  • You have a small list now, but plan to grow it fast and monetize it, while controlling cost and ROI by using a low cost provider.
  • You have built up a sizable list (over 10,000 subscribers) and ready to engage it with high quality content.
  • You are an agency offering email marketing services to your clients.

Unfortunately, low volume senders are limited in their options because most ESPs don’t offer an option to get a dedicated IP address on lower pricing tiers. And if you use an ESP that does offer access to a dedicated IP, it may come with a hefty price tag (for example $59 per IP per month at MailGun). If you use an ESP that runs on Amazon SES, like BigMailer, you can request a dedicated IP(s) from Amazon anytime, at a cost of $25 per IP per month. Check out our comparison of bulk email marketing services to see how different providers accommodate use of dedicated IP addresses.

How Many IPs Do You Need?

The need for IPs is determined by your list size and your practices. Most providers recommend 1 dedicated IP for every 25,000 (Amazon) to 100,000 emails you plan to send to at the same time.

Examples:

  1. If your list size is 50,000 and you send newsletters to entire list you need 1-2 IP addresses
  2. If your list size is 1,000,000 but you typically send to a segment of about 200,000 you need 2-4 IPs
  3. If you are an agency with clients sending at different times, your IP needs need to cover the largest campaign you send at any given time. So you may have a dozen or more customers with millions of subscribers in total, but only need 2-3 IPs for all your clients.

Final Thoughts

We use a dedicated IP at BigMailer, and our total list engagement is at 70% with typical open rates on bi-weekly campaigns in the 30-60% range. More importantly, we have seen open rates for gmail (very hard to place into inbox), as high as 80%.

Have you recently switched ESP and experienced a big change in inbox placement? Share your experience in the comments or via live chat. If you are a BigMailer customer we would love to use your story for a case study.

Happy email marketing.

 

 

 

 

Email Marketing Campaign Tracking in Google Analytics

Email Marketing Campaign Tracking in Google Analytics

If you use an email marketing platform to manage your email campaigns you already know what your open and click-through rates are. But do you know how many leads and sales your email campaigns generate and what ROI you get on your email marketing efforts? If you don’t yet track your email campaign performance or want to audit your setup, no worries – we put together this guide for email campaign tracking to help you do just that.

First, lets cover some basics – the most common way to track visits from an email to a website, and analyze activity for those visits, is by implementing utm parameters for Google Analytics. If you are curious what the other options are it’s setting up custom landing pages for each acquisition channel or even campaign, that’s what some very large companies do.

How to use utm parameters to track marketing campaigns

First, make sure your website has Google Analytics tracking installed site-wide. When you use Google Analytics (GA) for your website you can take advantage of special utm parameters that are appended to URLs to identify traffic sources (acquisition channels and campaigns) that are tracked on GA platform.

utm_medium – lets you see how your traffic is coming to your site (organic, referral, paid, social, video)
utm_source – tells you where your traffic is coming from, allowing to compare different referral sources
utm_campaign – helps you track how different marketing initiatives are performing
utm_content – lets you tag a specific element within a marketing campaign (ad creative, specific link)

Utm parameters are generally used in 2 ways:

1. Many marketing platforms automatically self-identify to GA by appending utm parameters.

Example: URL with utm parameters auto generated by Buffer

Example: URL with utm parameters automatically generated by Buffer

2. Marketers can define utm parameters themselves by adding values they choose.

Example: URL with utm parameters for tracking a link in an emailExample: URL with utm parameters for tracking a link used in an email

In the examples above, the text in blue is the pre-defined utm parameter names GA is expecting and the text in green is the values being passed in. The examples above are missing a utm_content parameter that helps identify the exact element that was clicked on, but it’s not as commonly used or as useful as those listed in the examples.

How to add utm parameters to links in email marketing platform

Unfortunately, not all email marketing platforms support custom tracking with utm parameters for Google Analytics, and some (like SendGrid and MailGun) don’t have link tracking turned on by default, so make sure you have link tracking enabled first.

Important: utm parameters for email link tracking should be defined at campaign level, not globally

You can look for link tracking settings either at account level, or as an option on each email campaign. In BigMailer, campaign management screen has a section for link tracking where you can define your utm parameters in an open text field.

Google Analytics utm parameters tracking

Google Analytics utm parameters tracking in BigMailer

Tip: If you have control over the utm parameter values, identify your email source as a type of email instead of the email vendor so you can compare historical performance for your email campaigns over time. For example, you can identify marketing emails as utm_source=mktg-email, automated campaigns as utm_source=auto-email, and transactional as utm_source=transaction-email. This way you will be able tell how your marketing or automated emails perform in aggregate.

Where to find data in Google Analytics based on utm values

You can map customer activities with your website pages (using URLs tagged with utm parameters) in Google Analytics by going to “Acquisitions” tab, see mapping below.

utm_ parameters Google Analytics mapping

Once you drill down into the reports by channel, source, or campaign, you can evaluate your visitors engagement with the site.

How to optimize email marketing campaigns with Google Analytics

You can analyze your traffic from email and act on the data in 3 main ways:

  1. Engagement with your site – time they spent on the landing page, bounce rate, page views per visit. These metrics will help you evaluate the content quality on your site and a fit with your audience.
  2. Conversion of your site visitors into leads (trials, registrations) and paying customers, if you setup Goals or e-commerce tags for conversion tracking within your Google Analytics account.
  3. Compare your engagement or conversion metrics change over time (month-over-month or year-over-year for seasonal businesses), and especially based on any change in setup (email sequence design), frequency or schedule for bulk campaigns, or creative (email templates).

What happens if utm parameters aren’t present or defined incorrectly?

When Google Analytics doesn’t see any utm parameters on the URL, it will try to identify the referring site, using built-in data passed in as part of the browser request for the page, called http_referer. The referrer info is only passed in between browser requests but not from other applications that open web links in a browser window. So when a desktop application like Outlook, which is used by many large companies, opens an email link in a browser the browser doesn’t know what the referrer is and GA doesn’t know how to attribute the website visit unless the links in the email have utm tracking parameters on them.

Email Clients in 2019 (report from Litmus): 18% of all emails are opened with desktop clients. Outlook is #1 desktop email client.

So without utm parameters being explicitly, intentionally, and accurately added added the site visits from emails can appear in various acquisition channels:

  1. Referrals – when platforms identify themselves as website domains names, they may show up under Referral traffic
  2. Other – when utm_medium is incorrectly set to something GA doesn’t recognize or “Email”
  3. Direct – when no utm parameters are present on URL and no referrer info available to browser
  4. Email – when utm_medium=email (case sensitive)

So the short story is – your data is only as good as your tagging, so make sure you tag your links correctly because there is no going back once data is collected and classified incorrectly.

Did you find this info helpful? Is there anything you wish we covered in more detail? Please share your feedback with us in the comments section below. We would love to hear from you.

Email Verification Service Provider Comparison

Email Verification Service Provider Comparison

Email deliverability has been a hot topic for marketers for quite some time. With mailbox providers getting more aggressive about their spam blocking and filters, inbox placement has become a priority issue for many marketers to address. To protect their email deliverability, marketers need to implement email verification as part of the pre-campaign routine. In this article, we are comparing a few email verification service providers to help you find the one that will keep your email list clean.

Why Verify Your Email List?

Deliverability of your email campaigns is strongly correlated to your sender reputation and bounce rate is one of the factors affecting it. With every hard bounce sender reputation takes a hit. If you don’t implement any actions to reduce your bounce rate, it can negatively impact your inbox placement. Your domain might get marked as SPAM by Internet Service Providers, which can result in your emails being delivered to the SPAM folder, and even lead to getting your domain appear on blacklists.   

Risk of Account Suspension with Your ESP

An average email list decays at a rate of 2% per month for B2C lists and 3% for B2B lists. So if an email list hasn’t been engaged in more than 3-4 months it can have more than a 10% bounce rate on the first bulk campaign. A bounce rate over 10% can result in getting an account suspended on many email platforms, in addition to causing long-term damage to your sender reputation. 

About Catch_all and Accept_all emails

Email verification will also prevent you from sending your campaign to disposable (aka temporary) emails as well as emails that domains set up as catch_all. Disposable emails are often used by spammers and fraudsters. Once created they usually are valid for around 48hrs, and later become invalid emails that will generate hard bounce. Catch_all also known as Accept_all emails, is an address that is specified to receive all messages that are addressed to an incorrect email address for a domain. The risk with such emails is that it might seem to be valid, however, it could still generate a hard bounce. By using email verification you will be able to establish which of the addresses are set up as catch_all, but you won’t learn if it is deliverable or not. The decision to message such addresses should be based on the overall quality of your list.

Email Bounces and Cost

There is of course a budget factor – email verification can save you money. Sending your campaign to undeliverable or risky addresses via your ESP’s or marketing platform can generate extra costs, with no chance of generating any return on investment (ROI).

Choosing an Email Verification Service

There are a lot of email verification services available, and it might be overwhelming when searching for the right one for the first time. For this comparison article, we are focusing more on affordable providers we have evaluated as potential partners. BigMailer is a very affordable email marketing platform, so it was important for us to continue to offer our customers great value when integrating a 3rd party email validation service. 

Other factors that we considered besides cost are: security and GDRP compliance, availability of robust APIs to process large data sets, possibility to run a test prior to purchase, and finally the team behind the service and support. 

Below are the services we had reviewed and ranking factors we have checked for the purpose of this article:

email validation service provider comparison chart

As we were evaluating prospecting partners 2 services stood out to us but for different reasons: TheChecker and Bouncer.

TheChecker is positioned as the lowest cost provider in this space and likely to appeal to a lot of BigMailer customers. However, since BigMailer has a lot of customers in Europe, we wanted to pick a partner who is committed to security and GDRP compliance, and that is what Bouncer is. Bouncer offers a winning  combination of affordability, security, support and commitment to building the highest quality service. At Bouncer, uploaded emails are hashed (anonymized) in all parts of their system, and customers have an option to delete permanently their data from the system at any time, or it will be automatically deleted after 60 days. 

BigMailer team is excited to partner with Bouncer as our official email validation provider. We will be integrating its service into BigMailer in the coming weeks (pricing TBD). In the meantime, BigMailer customers can get a 50% discount on email validation service on Bouncer website. 

Happy email marketing! 

How to Add Webforms to Your Site or WordPress

You can use BigMailer webforms to collect emails and any other subscriber data completely for free. You only have to subscribe and pay when you start sending emails above the limit on a free plan.

How to Create a Webform in BigMailer

First, you need to create a List that you want to collect your data into, then click on the arrow down icon next to your List name and select “Forms” in the options menu. On the next page click “Create Form” button and fill out all the fields:

If you want to collect additional fields in your webform you need to define them on the Fields page – click on your brand name in site header and select “Fields” in the options menu. See section about field management below.

Once you hit Save button you will see the HTML code that you can cut and paste into your website. Make sure to copy the entire code block provided.

Adding Your Webform in WordPress

If you use WordPress to manage your website you will need to use a HTML module type to add webform code to a page. Most WordPress installations and themes have this module type.

Customizing Your Webform

By default, BigMailer HTML webform code is un-styled, so you need to customize it to add relevant styles to the code, typically just a class attribute on the form and each field.

You can also customize the confirmation message provided to any text you would like or redirect to another page on your website after successful form submission.

If you are worried about spam traps or bots signing up for your emails you have the option to add reCAPTCHA to your forms.

Coming Soon (Q2 2020): Drag-n-drop landing page builder.

Managing Fields

There is 2 ways to create new fields in BigMailer:

  1. Add them on the Fields page (see above) before importing or collecting data
  2. Create new fields during the import step and map your columns in the file with data to new fields.

Once you define fields they can be used to:

  1. Generate a webform to collect data outside BigMailer platform
  2. Customize your email template with use of merge tags.

You need to select a correct data type for each field you create, so you can use appropriate operators (equals to, greater/less than, etc) when segmenting on those fields during campaign creation.

Example of fields in BigMailer

You should add some sample values for all fields, they will be used as merge tag values in any Test emails you send. Without these sample values your test emails that use merge tags can go into Spam folder or not get delivered at all.