The Q4 Inbox Placement Conundrum for Marketers
In Q4, internet service providers (ISPs) make their inbox algorithm much more restrictive to handle all the email volumes hitting their servers. The ISPs are trying to keep their customers happy ramping up to the holidays. What is making ISPs tweak their inbox algorithm even more than usual in Q4 2023 are additional political emails adding to the holiday email volumes.
If you don’t review your deliverability at least quarterly, you could be wasting a lot of money sending emails that never get where you want them to go. Your teams might be so laser focused on the creative and sending process that this vital step is getting missed. And if you’re like most senders, it’s getting missed a lot if not all of the time. This is unfortunate because Q4 is statistically the most difficult quarter for email marketers as bounce rates increase and open rates decrease because of the ISP algorithm changes mentioned above.
There is something you CAN do! You can optimize your chances of reaching your email recipient and get routed to their inbox versus junk folder. You first need to rule out the usual suspects keeping you from an inbox, and by that I mean authentication. If you’re not sure if you have all three forms of authentication between the domain used in the sender email address and the email service provider (ESP) system sending email on behalf of your domain, you can check using the following tools:
- Domain key identified mail (DKIM)
- Sender policy framework (SPF)
- Domain-based message authentication reporting and conformance (DMARC) authentication
If authentication is good, the next step is to check your sender reputation. One free tool that is great for overall reputation is Sender Score. It will show you green checks when you’re doing well or a red X when you need to fix something. It will also show you the IP addresses you’re sending from, the volume of emails sending from that IP address as well as the sender score. I like to see sender scores trend between 95 and above.
If your sender score is not above 95/100, you will want to check if either your ESP’s IP address or sending domain are on a blacklist. MX Toolbox is another great and free tool to check this. In my experience, if the sender is on a blacklist, not only will their sender score decrease, but also their inbox placement decreases by an average of 30%. That is 30% less eyeballs on the email you worked so hard to produce.
One final recommendation, and it goes against what most email marketers actually do, but to optimize inbox placement and deliverability, don’t try to cast the widest net and reach the largest audience possible. This is especially true in Q4. You must instead be more segmented and extra diligent with list hygiene. If you can’t, at the very least you must suppress any records that have not opened or clicked on at least one of your emails in a year or more. This will also reduce the chances that you’re hitting a recycled spam trap that could be lurking in your database. A recycled spam trap is when someone deleted their email account, the ISP keeps it open but dormant for a year, then after a year, opens it back up to catch senders who aren’t suppressing non-engaged email recipients. If you take these things into consideration, you should be squeaky clean in Q4. If you need help getting squeaky clean, let’s talk!