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:
- Just starting out with bulk campaigns for yourself or a client, or
- Haven’t engaged your list of 5k+ subscribers in the recent months
- 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:
- 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.
- Based on demographics like age or gender, or a number-based field like “Member ID” with “greater/less than” condition.
- Based on past campaign engagement, e.g. anyone who “opened” any campaign in the last 14-21 days.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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:
- Desired customer pool with high quality email sending practices
- 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:
- IP reputation
- Sender reputation (e.g. sender being your domain or exact email address the emails are sent from)
- Server and domain configuration (DKIM, SPF, tracking links, etc)
- Global engagement
- Content and format of the email (spam words in subject or message body, format – use of images, etc)
- Relative engagement for you (sender) versus other senders in the recipients inbox
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.
- If your list size is 50,000 and you send newsletters to entire list you need 1-2 IP addresses
- If your list size is 1,000,000 but you typically send to a segment of about 200,000 you need 2-4 IPs
- 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.
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.
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 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 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 this level of detail is most useful to businesses with large volumes of leads and variety of marketing assets.
So keep this in mind – your data is only as useful as your tagging. If you don’t track it, you can’t improve it.
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) only allow you to set your utm_source and utm_campaign parameter globally for entire account, rather than on a per campaign basis.
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 in BigMailer
If you have control over the utm parameter values, consider identifying 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 and what type of emails is driving conversions, sales, or upgrades.
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.
Google Analytics Traffic reports by channel, source, medium, and Campaign.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
If you don’t tag the links yourself, your visits can be attributed to a variety of channels. Direct channel implies that the visits recorded under it are direct visit, but that’s actually not the case.
Direct channel captures all traffic without referrer data, it’s actually a catch-all bucket with referrer is UNKNOWN.
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:
- Referrals – when platforms identify themselves as website domains names, they may show up under Referral traffic
- Other – when utm_medium is incorrectly set to something GA doesn’t recognize or “Email”
- Direct – when no utm parameters are present on URL and no referrer info available to browser
- Email – when utm_medium=email (case sensitive)
So once again, your data is only as useful as your tagging, so make sure you tag your links correctly because there is no going back once data is collected and classified incorrectly.
Happy email marketing!
If you work with email campaigns in any capacity you probably heard of all the terms listed below, but do you really understand what they mean and how they can be helpful in analyzing success of your email campaigns? We break it all down and provide you with some links for additional reading.
Brand Indicators for Message Identification (BIMI) is a new standard that makes it easier to get your logo displayed next to your message in the inbox. It is a way to verify information about your brand, similar to DKIM and SPF records. BIMI is designed to create trust, prevent fraudulent emails, and can aid deliverability.
Preview text – the text that displays in your inbox. It shows you a brief preview of the email you’re about to read. Unless a custom preview text is defined (typically hidden with code), it displays the text from the first line of the email. Most bulk email marketing service providers allow you to define custom Preview text.
Pre-header – the small text that appears within the body of your email, at the very top, above your main content. In a lot of email templates, and some email marketing platforms, it is a link to the browser version of the email. So if you don’t define preview text with a custom implementation, your preview text may read, “View this email in your browser.”
Most marketers use terms preview and pre-header interchangeably, but they are not the same. A pre-header can become preview, either intentionally or unknowingly.
Delivery Rate – a ratio of emails that didn’t bounce and weren’t blocked by email provider (MBP). Emails that land in Spam folder are considered to be delivered.
Inbox Placement Rate – a ratio of emails that landed in the Inbox (didn’t go to Spam/Junk or Promo (Gmail) folders) to total emails sent. Inbox placement is something marketers can optimize for, using spam testing tools like GlockApps or Litmus that analyze inbox placement across many MBPs and consider things like email content, subject line, and sender IP reputation.
Many email marketing services will claim high deliverability, which should simply be expected from any established ESP, where is inbox placement is what most marketers should care about and have a good amount of control over.
Open reach is the percentage of subscribers who opened at least ONE email during a set period of time. Open reach is a great indicator of list engagement and quality. Your list has good engagement if your open reach is in the 70-90% range after 3 months of sending. The longer a subscriber doesn’t open your emails the harder it will be to place into inbox, because mailbox providers like Hotmail and Gmail use relative engagement to determine if a subscriber is interested in a sender’s email. Higher open reach leads to better deliverability and inboxing. Read more about open reach.
MBP – MailBox Provider, often also referred to as ISP, any company that provides end users with an email account. The largest MBPs in North America are Gmail, Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL, and Comcast. It’s important to not forget corporate email providers with their custom setup and unique spam filters, which can make a big difference for some industries, e.g. banks or universities.
Blocked – if email is blocked, the MBP filter has determined the message or sender is suspicious and has stopped the mail (and any other volume from the sender) from going through to the recipient.
Blacklist – blacklists are lists of IP addresses that have been reported and listed as “known” sources of spam. There are public and private blacklists. Public blacklists are published and made available to the public – many times as a free service, sometimes for a fee. There are hundreds of well-known public blacklists. If your email marketing platform account is on a shared IP with other customers and the IP gets on a blacklist, your emails can get blocked. This doesn’t mean you must have a dedicated IP, although it does help to avoid this particular problem, a good provider will rotate IPs and work on getting their IPs off blacklists. Large providers tend to have “cleaner” IPs because they have resources to maintain a healthy IP list. Many providers offer dedicated IPs at extra charge, although most will only allow it on higher tier plans.
Bounces – a bounce means that the message cannot be accepted by the MBP (MailBox Provider) and is the email equivalent of “return to sender.” There are two types of bounces: hard and soft. Hard bounces indicate an email address is invalid or no longer exists; soft bounces indicate a temporary reason, such as a full inbox or attachment too large, for returning the message, with auto-responder (out of office) being the most common reason for a soft bounce.
Double opt-in – a practice to ask email subscribers to verify their subscription by clicking on a link in a verification email automatically sent out once a user subscribes. Double opt-in can significantly limit marketing opportunities for a given list while slightly improving list quality. Single opt-in is considered a superior subscription process by many marketers because it maximizes list growth and overall performance by minimizing signup barriers and opportunities for errors. Chad White from Litmus on advantages of single opt-in.
Re-permissioning – a practice to reach out to existing list subscribers to obtain a confirmation of permission to send emails. This has been discussed a lot lately due to GDPR’s requirement to have an explicit consent from subscribers. From what we had seen and heard, few companies had engaged in this practice, especially for US-based subscribers since GDPR scope is limited to customers located in EU, although it is recommended by experts at ReturnPath.
utm parameters – these are URL parameters that are used to help identify the source of traffic (e.g. social networks, email and display advertising campaigns) in Google Analytics with names that start with utm_ (e.g. utm_medium, utm_source, utm_campaign). Some email marketing software providers automatically add some utm_ parameters, like utm_medium=email and some providers allow defining additional parameters in a freeform field, either globally for an account or on a per campaign basis. Read more about email campaign tracking with Google Analytics.
Relative engagement – an email subscriber engagement with the email from your sending domain relative to all other sources of email in their inbox. This inbox placement factor is the reason why the same email may go to both Inbox and Spam folder for recipients on the same campaign. So a good sender reputation may not be enough to guarantee inbox placement. Read more on improving your email deliverability and inbox placement.
Spam traps are email addresses that monitor email communications to identify spammers and senders with incorrect contact management practices. Spam traps look like legitimate email addresses, but they aren’t operated by real users. These email addresses can end up on mailing lists that are harvested from web pages, purchased/rented, or simply not properly maintained (unengaged users are not removed from list on ongoing basis).
View Time Optimization (VTO) is a new email marketing service offered by Verizon Media, that owns Yahoo and AOL, that automatically times emails from companies to arrive the moment a user is logging into their (Yahoo or AOL) email, so it sits at the very top as a new message. Verizon Media claims x4 improvement in open rates and x2 in click rates. Email senders have to be approved for using the service and have to pay for it.
Return-path is a hidden email header that indicates where and how bounced emails will be processed. This header, sometimes referred to as a bounce address or reverse path, is an SMTP address that is different from your original sending address, and is used for collecting and processing of bounced messages.
Did you learn something new from reading this post? Are there any other terms you think we should add to this list? Please let us know by leaving a comment, we appreciate any feedback.
If you’re a startup founder, a growth marketer in an early stage startup, a developer working on side projects, an aspiring professional blogger or simply someone who wants to be a data-driven decision maker, this post is for you.
When product your is past its minimum viable product (MVP) phase and in a growth phase, you can afford premium analytics tools. In the early stages, however, you probably don’t have a lot of data, so using one of the many available free tools to help you collect conversion and engagement metrics can be a smart choice. The data you’re able to collect and analyze in the early stages of product development is not only important in illustrating what channels and tactics work best, but it can also be crucial to your startup’s success or failure.
While there are many analytics tools available, none can claim the large-scale adoption and proven value of Google Analytics (GA). For purposes of this post, I’m going to assume you already have Google Analytics tracking set up on your website and dive straight into some conversion tracking instances that don’t require additional steps from a site owner or developer.
Conversion Tracking Using Google Analytics Goals
Effort: Minimal – you define your goals in the Google Analytics UI with no code updates required.
You can set up goals for your main non-sale conversions like email sign-up, free account/trial sign-up and product activation. These can help you understand your conversions from site visitor to member, trial member or email subscriber. For many products, you can also add goals as steps that indicate product usage, allowing for certain functionality that enables users to evaluate your product and its value.
To get started, go to the Admin tab on the bottom left (look for gear icon), find “Goals” link under Views.
Click “Goals” and then “+ NEW GOAL.” From here, there are two simple ways you can define goals:
1 Use a unique URL path of the page that indicates a task completion such as /email-signup or /regi/welcome.
2 Use a unique name=value string that your site might already be using to indicate some other completed action. For example, you might be redirecting a user to the page they were on prior to creating an account and appending ?regi=true or ?email-signup=yes or a similar parameter to indicate to your application that the user just joined the site or mailing list. This can be used to display a custom welcome message or launch a tutorial-style widget to tell the user more about your site or product.
NOTE: Google Analytics allows you to assign a monetary value to a goal, but unless you’re actually using Goals to track sales or other actions you monetize (like automatically opting in your members to partner email lists or products during the registration process), you shouldn’t assign it. An exception would be if you only sell one product at one price point, like an ebook. You can actually use Goals to track your sales in this case, so you don’t need to read the rest of this post if your setup is that simple.
Email to Web Engagement Tracking Using Goals
Effort: Medium – depends on how and where you currently manage your emails.
If you send emails of any kind to your customers, make sure to tag all of them, marketing and transactional, with utm_ parameters.
If you’re new to utm_ parameter tracking, check out this guide. At a bare minimum, always pass utm_medium=email on all links in your emails to attribute your traffic, engagement and sales to the Google Analytics “Email” channel. Many email providers have click tracking disabled by default (SendGrid, MailGun), so make sure to enable it first and define values, preferably at campaign level.
If your email links don’t pass utm_medium=email, your stats will be attributed to catch-all “Direct,” “Referral” or “Other” channels depending on the email provider you use and the email clients your subscribers use. Once you add utm_medium=email, your stats will shift from one or more of the other predefined channels in the Email channel.
Utm_medium should always be set to “email” for your email links. If you set utm_medium to something you came up with yourself and it isn’t a convention, like email-[provider], then all your data will be attributed to the Other channel.
Conversion Tracking for Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Campaigns
Effort: Medium – requires your developer to drop the code in the right place but without customizing it.
If you run any PPC campaigns, simply drop the conversion tracking code (aka “pixel”) from your network to your subscription confirmation page. PPC platforms such as Google AdWords, Facebook, Pinterest, and many others all offer the option of adding a tracking code to your site. This allows you to track the return on investment (ROI) for your campaigns and ads inside those platforms.
E-commerce Conversion Tracking
Effort: Medium to Large – requires a developer be familiar with the checkout setup to drop the code and add values from the application into the code.
The best thing you can do for your conversion-to-paid tracking is to add e-commerce tracking from Google Analytics and pass the value of the sale or initial (first month/year) subscription from the sale/subscription confirmation page to Google Analytics. This will assign sales/revenue to the appropriate channel automatically, and you’ll even know what landing page the user originated from (i.e., an individual blog post) if you drill down to report by landing page (“Behavior” tab on the left > “Site Content” > Landing Pages).
Google Analytics Report Example: E-commerce Data by Acquisition Channel
IMPORTANT: If you sell in more than one country and display prices in multiple currencies on checkout or receipt/confirmation pages, make sure to convert the value to your desired currency before adding the information to the e-commerce tracking code. Your e-commerce data in Google Analytics will otherwise be an irrecoverable mess until you fix it.
Special Case – You Offer a Free Trial
Effort: Large – requires development work, including database work.
Typically, when someone signs up for a free trial that requires a credit card, they’re moved to a paid plan after the trial period ends. If your product supports this model, then the goal and e-commerce tracking described above will only track your free trials and not the actual revenue you collect unless you’ve included a custom step in which a user manually upgrades and chooses a plan or adds a payment method.
One way to track your sources of revenue beyond a free trial is to record referral data (http_referer and utm_ parameter values) to your database during the conversion to trial step. This will provide a referral source for each trial record. To implement this process, record a referral source (check HTTP referer and/or utm_ parameters on query string) into a cookie, and then record the source from the cookie into your database with the account record during the trial sign-up step. You can later cross-reference that record with subsequent renewals and determine your churn, life time value (LTV) ratio and ROI for the individual acquisition channels or specific PPC campaigns (if you use unique utm_campaign parameter for each PPC campaign).
For more info on implementing custom conversion tracking, check out Building Your Own User Analytics System in SQL from Periscope, which was written for developers and outlines an implementation in great detail (data tables, columns, etc.).
Did you find this article helpful? Was there anything you wish we covered in more detail or provided examples for? Please share your feedback in the comments.
Happy conversion tracking and growth hacking!