EP 002: Email Marketing & Deliverability Myths Demystified

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Episode Summary:

In this episode, email consultant Chris Lang reveals not only his best deliverability hacks for ensuring your emails get delivered in your subscribers inbox, but he also demystifies countless email marketing myths you have probably heard and believe.

Episode Links:

MXToolbox

About Chris Lang & Email Marketing Jedi

ActiveCampaign

Infusionsoft

Episode Transcript:

Mark:  Welcome to today’s episode. I am here with Chris Lang. Chris is an email marketing and deliverability expert and consultant, who’s been doing this for over seven years. He is the guru for the gurus when it comes to email deliverability. He’s worked with guys like Chris Brewer, and Russel Brunson. Actually, I was referred to Chris by Russel, and that’s how we connected. I can tell you right now, Chris is just filled with an insane amount of knowledge when it comes to email marketing and deliverability. I wanted to have him on the podcast. Chris, thank you for joining me.

Chris:  Well, thank you so much for having me, and thank you so much for such a glowing introduction.

Mark:  You are quite welcome. Let’s dive right into this. I know there’s a lot of people that are listening that are just wondering general tips. What are some of the top factors that email providers such as Gmail, such as Yahoo Mail, Outlook, what are they looking for, and what determines if your email is going to get sent to the inbox or to spam?

Chris:  That’s a pretty deep question there. One of the things I’m seeing these days is that email delivery is a marathon, not a sprint. Just signing up to an autoresponder of choice that supposedly has the best delivery is just not the solution anymore. I’m also seeing that fifty percent of email delivery is on your back. Just to quickly touch on answering your question, things like the quality of your from address, the quality of the domains that are in your emails. Engagement has gotten a lot of talk lately, that unengagers, people that don’t open your emails are worthless subscribers, and that you should get rid of them in short periods of time. Lots of people are using automation on things like Activecampaign and InfusionSoft to remove the unengaged after a short a period of time of sixty days.

That’s just something that irks me, honestly, Mark. I can put it no other way than it irks me, because deleting unengagers in a short period of time, when you could very possibly be in Outlook.com, AOL, or the cable companies, things like ComCast. You could easily be in their spam folders, and be deleting unengagers.

The quality of the indicators that you control things, like your from address, things like your domains and email, the quality of the sites that surround your sites, on hosting. One of the big mistakes is cheap hosting on shared IPs. One of the real gem that I could provide here, and this answer is an IP address that’s a dedicated IP address for your site. That’s a big indicator of quality. Things like that are what we’re seeing, taking into account these days over just basically the email setup that comes from your autoresponder.

Mark:  Yeah. Most people on this call, I’m going to assume about ninety-eight percent of people listening are probably already using something like GetResponse, Aweber, MailChimp. They don’t have complete control. It’s not like they have a dedicated server with their own IP addresses. What are the pros and cons to using an Aweber or GetResponse, as opposed to having your own dedicated server, and then the second part of that question would be at what point would you even think about moving away, and having your own dedicated solution?

Chris:  This is something that you’re not going to hear a lot of people say, and that I, as a deliverability consultant, have no allegiance to any one platform. I like Aweber, as well as I like ActiveCampaign, as well as I like MailChimp, or GetResponse, any of the well known names. I really that feel that you can achieve great delivery on whatever platform that you have at your disposal, and you can afford, because the indicators of quality these days are more and more coming from your own site.

Don’t let me confuse things when I say a dedicated IP address for your site. That could be had for seven dollars, simply by making a phone call to GoDaddy, and saying, “I want a dedicated IP for your site.” They’ll move you, and it’s in DNS within an hour. The idea of indicators of quality that don’t come from the autoresponder, or are kind of a unique thinking these days. I really believe that ESPs, Gmail in particular, is going to be looking at indicators of quality that we create far and above the autoresponder that’s sending your email.

I really feel, even as CTO of an email platform, I’ve got a new SMTP server coming out next month to support ClickFunnels. Even as the owner of these platforms, and the co-founder of one, I really have no allegiance to any one autoresponder, and I think really great delivery can be had by anyone, depending on the quality of the offers that you’re sending, the engagement. Are you just pounding an offer every week, or are you providing value? Are the people opening up your emails, and engaging with them? Can they reply to your email address? Will you reply back? Those are all indicators of quality that I feel the various ESPs, ISPs, various inboxes, hosting domains, all the places our emails go to. I think that they’re going to be taking that more and more into account in that they already are in about forty to fifty percent of the algorithm that decides whether or not you’re going to the inbox.

Mark:   Sure, I mean, that makes sense. It sounds like search engines, social media sites like Facebook, they’re mainly concerned about engagement. I guess in terms of email specifically, making sure that people are opening your email, so having a good subject line, so your email actually gets opened. Then if you have a link in your email, trying to get people to click through, and engage on wherever it is that you’re sending them.

Also, you touched on if someone replies to you, ensuring that you reply back. That was actually going to lead me into my next question, which was is there a downfall, is there a con to routing that email address, whatever it is that you use, say you’re using support@yourdomain.com. If that all routes into say a help desk, which you don’t want to have to go and manage all of the autoreplies that come through, you don’t want that coming into your personal account. Are there any downfalls to having that all route into a support desk, of which then your support agents could then reply to people who are then replying in your emails?

Chris:  No, I don’t think there’s a downside to it all. Some of us that are going to be listening, and myself, are one man shows. I’ve been doing this for seventeen years, and I’ve always dealt with things one on one. However, I was doing an analysis of some of these positive indicators I’m talking about, that could be found by opening an email. I was looking through my inbox on a video for my members site, and I was looking at [inaudible 00:07:53], I was looking at Jeff Walker, I was looking at Russel’s emails. I was saying, look guys, you can see here that this is wired into their help desk, their from addresses. That’s by far and above the biggest indicator when it comes to engagement, that if someone replies to your email, they get a reply back. When that reply uses the same … Basically you’re cc-ing back with the same subject line that just like a normal reply, well that turns into a conversation.

Gmail is very big on adding like emails together into a conversation. I believe that conversations are a big indicator of quality, too, Gmail’s algorithms. Outlook also has the ability to glue thins in a conversations. That too way back and forth. Also, for … Good Lord, five, six years ago, we started seeing that if you reply to an email address sent to you via a list, and that person replies back, well then you end up in each other’s address books. That’s still very true of Outlook, via Microsoft Office today. It’s very, very true within Gmail. If you reply to an email, Gmail, for quite some time, six, seven, eight years now, has automatically added that person to your address book. Those kinds of indicators are also positive indicators of quality that these ESPs and people, various large entities that receive your email, these are positive indicators that they can use to algorithmically decide that you’re a real person. By CAN-SPAM law, you have to use a real address. You have to receive email at it, and you should reply back. All these things are not just the legal issues, but levels of engagement as well.

Mark:   Mm-hmm (affirmative). A lot of it can be stuff that is in your control, ensuring that you have a good email address where you can reply. Making sure you have content on your website, so if the search engines, or the ISPs are looking, hey, this person actually has real content, not just a parked page, right?

Chris:  Yeah, definitely. Let me touch on something else, too, and it’s the idea that say Outlook.com addresses, which is now the homogenization of all prior Microsoft, say Live, Hotmail, et cetera, everything goes to Outlook.com now. AOL, the cable companies like ComCast, these are considered junk addresses, and people are like, “Oh, it’s junk. Nothing gets delivered there. I don’t even care about it.” That’s a big mistake, too. It’s something that’s become very popular is that, “Oh, those emails are junk.” Well they compromise, on average, about twenty to thirty percent of your list.

Here’s why those kind of places are gold, Mark, is because nobody else is getting delivered there. When you get your email delivered to Outlook.com, AOL, the cable companies, guess what? Your competition isn’t in the inbox, they’re in spam. Those kind of places are gold because you’re getting all the attention, and you’ve got no competition in that inbox. The idea of overlooking delivery that could be achieved by a professional in those cases, is a big mistake. You’re leaving money on the table, and you’re just throwing up your hands without understanding the actual possibilities to make more money that are out there in these inboxes.

Mark:   We’ve already discussed probably two different myths when it comes to email deliverability. The first one is that you should just completely ignore Outlook, and all these second tier email providers because it aggregates a lot of subscribers. The other one being that, and this is something you told me when we were on a consulting call, and from what I’ve heard from back in the day, or just from reading various articles, “Oh, well if people aren’t going to open your emails, then you should just remove them.” Remove the people who are not engaging, but what most people overlook, and what I overlooked, was that maybe people just aren’t getting your email, it’s in the spam box. Are there any other email deliverability myths that we should be aware of?

Chris:  One that I’ve spent a lot of time poking holes in is the Gmail promotions tab. It’s been about a year of focusing mostly on getting clients, and friends out of the Gmail promotions tab. Over that period we’ve managed to produce some pretty good, solid data on it, and that not, on average, whether it’s affiliate lists in the normal world, or a marketing list like [inaudible 00:12:59] probably, people are listening to you and me right now. People in the marketing world, we’re seeing an open rate increase of eight to ten percent at the top level. We’re talking when you log into your autoresponder, and it says the open rate is twenty-two percent. We’re seeing that getting out of the promotions tab raises that particular open rate, at the top level, eight to ten percent. That’s a lot to me, especially on a bigger list. That’s a lot of money. On a small list, it could be the difference between no money.

Mark:    Mm-hmm (affirmative). Let me ask you this. What is considered a good open rate? I know that’s kind of a general question, and it could vary from industry to industry. Do you have any type of averages that you’re looking at when you say, “Hey, if the open rate is at least x percent, that’s average, or that’s above average.”

Chris:   The point at which you begin to engage a new lead. The point at which they’ve just freshly signed up, I would expect a forty percent open rate. Newly engaged, first couple emails in the autoresponder. Industry standard down the road is twenty percent. At that point it’s really up to your subject line, how big that open rate’s going to be. Twenty to thirty percent is industry standard for an older list, the point at which you just begin to talk to that person. I would expect, if I did not see a forty percent open rate on the first two emails in an autoresponder series, I would say that there’s either something wrong with your marketing, or there’s a possibility there’s something wrong with your delivery.

Also, when you see open rates suddenly crash, and just boom, all of a sudden your normal open rate is down by a hundred percent. Sudden, extreme dips. That’s usually an indicator of a deliverability problem. However, let me also say, email delivery should not be measured by open rates, there’s far too many variables.

Mark:   Yeah. If people want to use free tools just to monitor their deliverability, I know there’s something called a sender score, if you’re on blacklists. Are there any free tools that you recommend that people can go and sign up for, and see how their existing deliverability is?

Chris:  You know, there’s a lot of things out there. I would say number one, everybody should have their own seed list. You should have your own ComCast address if you’re in the US, and you’re like me, and you have a ComCast cable connection. Everybody hates ComCast, but you know, it’s the fastest thing there is in Denver.

Secondly, you should have … Let’s just count them down. You should have ComCast, AOL, Outlook.com, Gmail, and not an account that you read your own Gmail in. You should have a Yahoo account, and you should have some of the other minor ones that you might see on your list as well, too. You should have the big five here. You should be looking be looking at whether or not your emails go to spam. You should also be looking at whether or not your competitors and other people are going to spam. If your competition, and everyone else in your niche, is not going to spam, and you are, well you’ve got a real problem. Just monitoring your own email like that.

Once you’ve got a problem, once you’ve determined there’s a problem, you can use a number tools, things like MxToolbox. Probably MxToolbox is not exactly my favorite, but it’s the easiest one to use, and it’s free for normal people. The other ones, you know, pretty hard to use, and very, very confusing language. I think that’s probably the biggest mistake that people make, or people do make, is not having a basic seed list that they have set as a list in their autoresponder. Then when you send to any list, you also send to your seed list.

Mark:   When you say seed list, all you’re saying is go out and create free email addresses on all these different ISPs, so that you can just monitor them.

Chris:    Sure, yeah, definitely. Pretty simple to do. I mean, when I sign up to a newsletter, you know what I do? I sign up all five of my seed lists, and that’s just because what I do … Another big thing you can do is read your spam folder. I had a client in the financial space, and he’s like, “All my stuff’s going to spam.” I’m like, “Well, you know, let’s see your emails. Forward me a number of copies of what you’ve been sending.” All I had to do as look at my spam folder, and send him back a few of the financial offers that I get there, and the copy matched up exactly. You can’t write copy that matches up with what’s already filtered to spam by the keywords and the hard hitting copy that it uses. Reading your spam folder is an absolute resource. Very simple there, just watch what spammers do, and don’t do it.

Mark:   Pretty common sense stuff, right?

Chris:   Oh, you can learn a lot from your spam folder. I mean, I don’t run … Since people have to contact me via email, Mark, and request my services, or ask for an exploratory call, I can’t run spam filters on my domain-based email. Obviously, also sending that email to Gmail would be a disaster. I have a simple filtration system via Sanebox that gives me an extra inbox. In there lands just two, three thousand spams a day, easily. I go through them, and I take a look at what these people are sending, and you know, there’s still a large keyword algorithm out there, no matter how much Gmail wants to tell you they already have an artificial intelligence behind their inbox, they still filter by very hard hitting copy. That kind of hard hitting copy, at times, will move you to the promotions tab, and can even land you in spam.

That’s something else to be said about Gmail that’s very interesting, too, is it’s no longer, within the last couple years, Gmail has changed a lot. It’s no longer a set of static filters  that says you are a spammer. You are going to the inbox, or now you might be somewhere in between we’re going to put you in the promotions tab. These filers now, and this is what filters are going to be changing to, excuse me. What filters are definitely going to be changing to is interest-based, relationship-based, conversation-based indicators of quality that don’t come from the autoresponder. We’re going to see inboxes changing highly within the next two years, to be very personalized, algorithmic. Gmail’s a good case in point. You could be in the spam folder one day, you could be in the primary tab the next, and on day three you could be in promotions. That’s Gmail trying to decide what’s interesting to you, and send what’s interesting to your inbox.

Mark:  Good stuff, good stuff. All right, I’m going to be asking you just some kind of quick fire questions here. If you can just give me an answer in just twenty or thirty seconds or less on each of these different questions. These were questions that have … I’ve kind of aggregated from lots of people asking me these questions when it comes to email deliverability. The first one is double opt-in versus single opt-in. Which do you use?

Chris:  Single opt-in all the way.

Mark:  Really, okay? Everything you read, I don’t know if this is another myth, everyone says double opt-in. Why do you choose single?

Chris:  Single opt-in is going to probably make you twice as much money as double opt-in.

Mark:  Okay.

Chris:  Secondly, if you’re using single opt-in, scrub your list every two months.

Mark:  Okay, and what service would you recommend for scrubbing a list?

Chris:  Mine.

Mark:   All right, well we’ll make sure we provide a link.

Chris:  I have my own service that I use, and you get insight from it, not just a list of good emails back. You get insight as to what you may be doing wrong along with that list scrub.

Mark:  Okay, well let me rephrase the question. Why would you not use the scrubbing services that are available that are point zero zero one cents per subscriber?

Chris:  Well, right there, point zero zero one cents per subscriber is, you know, you’re going to get what you pay for. I mean, there’s Eventbrite … The right name’s not coming to mind. It sounds like Eventbrite, you’ll see them all over the place. They want to petty an email. I just scrubbed a four hundred thousand member subscriber list last week. Did that person want to spend four thousand dollars?

Mark:   Right, okay.

Chris:  I mean, there’s a lot out there. I spent three thousand dollars this summer trying them all out. I was not happy with any of them, and I centered on a data provider. It allows me to connect to them, and then it spits back segregated lists. Seven different segregation of your lists in a four page PDF, and all that comes back. I’m extremely happy with that. Also, I’m not sending my clients on to people that compete against me for delivery advice.

Mark:  Sure, okay.

Chris:  Honest kind of business.

Mark:  Makes sense. We’ll provide a link, guys, for anybody who’s interested in using Chris’ scrubbing services, because I’m sure there’s a lot of people out there that say, “Hey, I have this list.” Maybe it’s been around for awhile, and you just want to scrub it. I can attest to the reports that he provides. It’s very granular, and it shows you who is what. It’s very interesting.

Okay, next one is HTML versus text-based emails. Which do you recommend?

Chris:  I’m a dinosaur. I love text-based email, but we’re all going to use HTML because we want that open rate. We want that metric.

Mark:  Yep. Okay. How often should I send to my list? I know that’s kind of a loaded question, but see if you can answer it.

Chris:  As often as you can. I am a huge proponent of emailing every day.

Mark:  Okay.

Chris:  Engage, that engagement. The engagement that you’ll get … Let me just try to get this out real quickly. You have one page in Gmail to get their attention. If you fall to page two, they’re never going to see you, and nobody’s ever going to read page two. Why not email every day, and let’s take a shot at getting on that inbox when they’re reading it, on page one, two to three times a week. Also, if you’re mailing from a dedicated IP, you need steady volume. Mark, you use a dedicated IP. You are a dream client. You mail every day. You do half the work that I have to do for me, simply by keeping that IP address warm.

Mark:  Right. Just playing devil’s advocate here. Some people would say, “Well, if I mail my list too much, they’re going to get annoyed, they’re going to unsubscribe, and I’m going to lose engagement with my subscribers.” What do you say to that?

Chris:  It’s your call. The question here is how much content of value can you actually produce? Are people … I’ve really never had a problem. I love it when people unsubscribe. That’s just wonderful. I mean, the other option is marking you as spam, or just deleting your emails on sight, which is an even worse case scenario. That’s another indicator of negative quality that these ESPs use. It depends on how much value you can deliver along with pitch. I mean, if you remember Howie Schwartz. Howie Schwartz is my [inaudible 00:25:24]. He pounded that list. He also provided a great piece of content in every email he sent.

Mark:   Yeah, yeah, I mean …

Chris:  Followed by a pitch.

Mark:  I agree. As long as you’re providing value, and you have something worthy to say. Don’t just keep reiterating the exact same thing for a week straight. I guess some people, depending on how big your business is, and how much bandwidth you have in terms of resources. How much content you can create. Are you doing webinars, blog posts, all that kind of stuff. That’ll help determine how frequent you should be mailing the list. Would you agree?

Chris:   Let me reiterate though. If you’re using a dedicated IP, you have to email all the time. You cannot have huge bursts, and suddenly a broadcast goes out, and then you’re dead til next week. Maybe you email on Monday and Thursday. I hate Mondays, by the way. That’s going to produce huge jacks in traffic, and this is not something that any ESP likes, coming from a dedicated IP. When you’re using say Aweber, well that’s a pool IP provider, they do not offer dedicated Ips, hence you’re mailing from a pool that always has nice, constant emails going out in a nice, constant level. If you’re on that dedicated IP, you better be emailing three, four times a week.

Mark:  Okay.

Chris:  If you’re not on a dedicated IP, well then you can go back and forth.

Mark:  What times of the day are best to mail out?

Chris:  You’re going to determine that from your own list. Seventeen years I’ve been with Aweber. When I was mailing real hard a number of years ago, and not a consultant at all, just a plain straight up buy my stuff marketer. I had it nailed down to seven-thirty Eastern time, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. The rest of the week was worthless to me. That was because I do my list. I’ve had that list for, like, ten years at that point. I knew when people were going to open the email, and as much as people said, “I love right after lunch Eastern time.” I said right after lunch Eastern time sucks for me, and I stuck to … If I didn’t get my stuff done and ready to go between seven and seven-thirty Eastern, I knew it was going to fail with each hour that moved on. Know your list.

Mark:  Mm-hmm (affirmative). For people listening who have an old list that’s been around for awhile, or they haven’t mailed it in a month, or six months, what do you recommend. I know you talk about re-engagement campaigns. If you wouldn’t mind, talk a little bit about it, and how you get an old, stagnant list to start re-engaging with you again.

Chris:  Right now, my list is very stagnant. I’ve mailed like, two or three times in the past year. Before I mail, begin mailing again, as I’m going to again in 2017 when I get back from TNC, first thing I’m going to do is scrub that list, because old emails that are abandoned are still pouring into spam traps. That’s been true for ten years, it still occurs today. Spam traps are just, if not a bigger problem, just as much, if not a bigger problem today as they were when we all started out, way back when. The way back when could be two to three years. Scrub that list.

Secondly, you want to send emails without links, offers, you know, no SIG files, no lots of images. Don’t link to your social profiles. Don’t use those heavy templates. Let’s just talk to your list, and include the content in the email. Also the key here’s going to be getting that email re-opened, and having an effective subject line. There’s a lot of different engagement campaigns out there.

As Matt Marks, I’ll be talking to two of you right after this. Mark, there’s a lot of engagement campaigns out there, and each one should be crafted for the particular ESP where your largest list footprint is at, and should you be having delivery problems, there’s a way of crafting particular engagement campaigns to get around that particular delivery problem. Most of what I was just saying would be Gmail. If you’re going to try to re-engage a list, you don’t want to do so with a very heavy template, with tons of links, links to your social profile, big, heavy footers, big, heavy headers. You want something to be simple and light, and you want the person to easily be able to read it, because again, that engagement. Getting that email opened.

Something else I’m seeing is getting the email opened on a mobile device. If people have come to know your email’s going to be so heavy that it’s going to be unfriendly on the device, maybe hard to open, a mile long, an engagement campaign should be quick, short, and to the point, and maybe contain some content. One thing that I loved that Ryan Lee’s doing right now is he emails five days a week, and everything’s in the email. He just sits at Starbucks each morning, and he writes a little personal email with some kind of actual marketing advice, that you know is on his mind at that moment. It’s really direct and personal, and he emails that five days a week. I always open them up and read them. It takes me two minutes. That could be used as an engagement campaign, that could be used as a re-engagement campaign.

Mark:  Chris, thank you for coming on. I know we could go for probably two or three more hours. I know you love talking about this stuff, and hopefully everyone here can see how passionate you are. For one, I also want to thank you for probably saving thousands of dollars in consulting fees for all the listeners, to get all these golden nuggets. I mean, this is great stuff. I hope you guys are taking notes, and you’ll start implementing this stuff. Chris, for those of you who want to learn more about who you are, what you do, and your services, where do they go?

Chris:  Go to emaildeliveryjedi.com. I have a do-it-yourself solution there, if you’re a person that wants to learn more about this. My member’s site will teach you over one hundred and one different points on a checklist that can increase your email delivery. If you don’t have time for learning things, and you want it done for you, there’s a link at the bottom. Pick up the phone, because if you’re going to the spam folder, you better call Lang.

Mark:   I love it. Thank you so much, Chris, for being on. We’ll make sure that we provide some links below on our site, so people can contact you that way. Thank you so much for coming on, and I look forward to … Hopefully we’ll do this again, because I know you could talk about this for hours, so maybe we can do another session as well, down the road.

Chris: Thank you, Mark. Thanks for having me. It’s been my pleasure.

Mark:  All right, thanks Chris.

  • Mike Lazarus

    Mark, thank you for the episode and the transcript. It made me take a look at my own autoresponder open rates for the fitness list (single opt-in) I started on Jan 27th.

    I’m seeing a 37% open rate on the first 2 emails (slightly below the 40% benchmark chris mentioned) and a 17% open rate on emails 7-10 (slightly below the 20% benchmark chris mentioned). I just switched to double opt-in yesterday (against chris’ recommendation) so I’ll see how that improves it moving forward.

    These were some great tips and I’m enjoying the content.

    • Love the action steps! Keep it up and let us know how your test goes…