Chris Kolbenschlag’s job seems simple, but helping brands ensure their emails get to their subscribers has evolved into an undertaking that can make or break any email marketing campaign – especially when it comes to Gmail addresses.
“Deliverability wasn’t really the buzz word that it is today, but there were some issues already brewing in regards to receiving unsolicited email,” said Kolbenschlag, Oracle Bronto’s director of deliverability, referencing a previous job responding to customer emails before the CAN-SPAM act of 2003. “The majority of those messages were complaints about emails customers didn’t sign up for.”
On this episode of The Commerce Marketer Podcast, Kolbenschlag breaks down some of the many components that factor into a message reaching the inbox, along with email deliverability myths and best practices.
Having 100% deliverability doesn’t mean every message reaches the inbox. There’s two factors to consider: Whether it made it to the Internet Service Provider (ISP), and if it was delivered to the inbox or spam folder. Some of the things that won’t necessarily raise red flags include:
- Emojis in subject lines
- Using “free” in subject lines (which is fine for B2C, but be careful when sending B2B)
- External click tracking within links (be sure you know your partners)
But what could get brands in trouble is their reputation. Many ISPs use the sender’s IP reputation to determine whether a message is delivered or not, but Gmail recognizes that multiple users can share one IP, so they judge an email’s deliverability based on domain reputation.
Kolbenschlag compares the difference to a child making prank phone calls from a landline inside his house.
“Gmail says I don’t want to penalize the whole family because of the kid,” he said. “So I’m going to let that call come through from the mom, dad, and the sister, but I’m going to block that boy. And the way they block that boy is they know his domain, they know his name. And they punish the boy by putting him in the spam folder. It’s gone from blocking the whole phone number to I’m just going to block that person in the household.”
Marketers should also pay attention to how Gmail screens messages. With more than 1.5 billion users, Gmail sends about 100 million emails to the spam folder daily using AI and rule-based filters.
“You can change your domain, you can change your IP, but your fingerprint, who you are as a marketer pretty much stays the same,” Kolbenschlag said. “And that’s why folks like Gmail are getting a lot better at identifying others.”
As Gmail’s spam filters evolve, marketers should ensure their lists are healthy. Kolbenschlag has advised clients that have sent hundreds of emails to unengaged subscribers, which can result in serious consequences.
“It’s kinda like break up with them before they break up with you,” he said. “The way they break up with you is they click on ‘this is spam’…and it could be hurting your reputation because you’re sending emails to people who ignore your emails and (ISPs) could be watching them.”