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Strategies for Email Best Practices: Deliverability, Engagement, and List Health

January 25, 2024
5 min read

Email marketing is a common practice among leaders across the world. But did you know there are a series of factors to consider before and after pressing send? These factors revolve around ensuring your message successfully reaches your subscribers' inboxes, defining your deliverability rate.

Discover effective strategies for preserving a good sender reputation through deliverability best practices when engaging in mass communications. This includes safeguarding a healthy email list and understanding the significance of IP address management.

What is email deliverability? And why does it matter?

Everyone always wants to know what they need to do to land in a recipient's inbox without realizing there are actually a series of things to do or to be aware of before even pressing the send button. As soon as you press send on an email campaign, not everyone who was targeted may get that email delivery. That’s because there are a series of factors working against you, dictated by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) or Email Service Providers (ESPs) like Gmail, Yahoo, or Microsoft. Some of these are outside your control, while others aren’t.

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) closely monitor your sending activity, assessing the trustworthiness or suspicion level of your sending practices. They compile these metrics to establish your authentication and IP reputation. It doesn’t matter who is sending email - whether you’re the biggest political party in your country or an NGO barely off the ground - the key is ensuring you continually optimize your sending practices because email providers have decided that past performance predicts future sending ability.

Authenticating your sending domain 

Authenticating your sending domain is a must before sending email - and that’s from any email platform! This is the underlying technology signaling to ISPs that you are an authentic sender. If your domain is left unauthenticated, you may experience higher rates of bounced emails or see your messages filtered into spam folders more frequently. An easy first step in optimizing your deliverability! 

This means seamlessly adding a set of authentication records to your domain provider: 

  • CNAME (provided to you by NationBuilder)
  • SPF
  • DKIM

If your domain is managed by NationBuilder, you’ll just need to generate that record in your domain provider, after which a member of our support team can add it to your registrar on our end. 

Quick tip: Read more about the latest changes implemented by Yahoo & Gmail on why a DMARC will be a requirement moving forward. 

The impact of non-engagement levels to your domain’s reputation

Bad email practices can have a lasting impact on sender reputation. One of the easiest ways to avoid triggering ISP red flags is to make sure your email list hygiene is clean and up to date. Sending to non-engaged recipients hurts your domain reputation and causes deliverability issues, soft bounces, or labeled as “bad”.

If you're routinely targeting disengaged supporters, this stops you from landing in the inboxes of those who DO want to hear from you. This leads to a poor email sender reputation and an even weaker inbox placement and delivery rate.

The longer you push this boundary - so, the longer you continue emailing folks who are actively not opening your emails - the more likely ISPs will consider you to be phishing and all of a sudden blacklisting your ability to communicate with your intended audience. For instance, this translates itself in a sudden rise of hard bounce rates or decreasing open rates.

The secret to positive engagement metrics

Good engagement stems from email content that is relevant to your supporters in the first place. This means knowing your supporters down to a tee and practicing email marketing campaigns with relevant content that interests and motivates them to take action on your behalf.

At the core of NationBuilder's product philosophy is the goal of mobilizing individuals into action. We are dedicated to providing organizations with the tools necessary to drive positive change and foster engagement within their community. With powerful tools, you can get to know your supporter base and you gain the ability to make the right ask, at the right time- generating meaningful impact and stronger email engagement rates.

Consider this: If your emails contain content unrelated to your supporters' previous engagement with your cause, it's likely they'll gradually disengage, overlooking calls to action (CTA), and ultimately leading to reduced email open rates. Utilizing NationBuilder Filters to segment your audiences and tailor your email campaigns to ensure that each communication is relevant and meaningful.

Quick tip: With NationBuilder Filters, you can get really granular with who you’re trying to reach––filter by engagement and geographic data, custom fields, tags, and more, then simply save your filter to come back to it next time.

Setting Time Limits and engage a win-back campaign

So what can you do to make sure your email list hygiene is in a healthy state? It is better for your list to unsubscribe than remain disengaged or identify you for their spam folder. We recommend running quarterly win-back campaign- also known as a re-engagement campaign or a “sunset” automation. These will ensure you run a successful email program that only targets your most engaged recipients.

In brief:

  • A win-back campaign is an opportunity to engage with supporters who were previously active in your database but who are now inactive - but for whom have the potential to be swayed again. After all, they haven’t unsubscribed.
  • A sunsetting policy is where you give yourself a strict timeline on how long a recipient can remain inactive in your database - if said user doesn’t engage with your sunset automation, it’s safe to say they're waving the red flag. You can opt them out or invite them to click the unsubscribe link on their own.

Quick tip: Dive into more information on how to set up your win-back campaigns on NationBuilder.

What do these time limits look like?

You may be wondering what defines a disengaged status? Most ISPs or ESPs recommend 6 months as a benchmark. This translates into anyone who hasn’t opened an email in the last 6 months. NationBuilder Filters will be your go-to way to isolate this audience as the basis of any follow-up campaigns.

But don’t just take it from us! Maintaining an engaged list aligns with best practice industry standards.

And how can I maintain a healthy list?

The key is ensuring you get into a regular cadence as you look to maintain your email list. While once a quarter may be hard for certain organizations who don’t have the resources or manpower, implementing these strategies, at the least, once a year, is a strong starting point.

So once you’ve won certain folks back or they’ve confirmed they want to continue hearing from you, keep them engaged with relevant content! Remember that you worked hard to engage with them in a meaningful way, so make sure to keep your supporters warm. That comes with running a healthy and varied email program!

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Madeleine Cazes

Madeleine Cazes

Senior Enterprise Account Manager based in London, UK. Madeleine in French. Maddy in English.

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