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8 Best Practices for Reaching the Inbox

Published: July 01, 2019
8 Best Practices for Reaching the Inbox

Good inbox placement is the goal for anyone doing email marketing, and there are a lot of factors that can affect your ability to reach the inbox. There's no one single answer to getting great results, but there are plenty of considerations to give you the best advantage. Below are some of our time-testing tips for reaching as many inboxes as possible.


1. Opted-in Lists The best email addresses are those that have specifically requested, and opted-in to receive communication from you. Obtaining opt-ins via your website, a sign-up / registration form, or other opt-in action is easy and helps you build a high-quality, organic list over time. These people should have a clear understanding of what they will be receiving from you, along with the frequency. And always, always, always make it very easy for people to opt-out if they decide they no longer want to receive communication.

Email Tips: Create easy email opt-in forms inside of your Elevate email marketing platform that can be embedded in your website and/or other online channels.

Every template features a CAN-SPAM Act compliant email signature with opt-out to keep you on the up-and-up.

Q&A: What are the current anti-spam laws that I need to be aware of? The US has the CAN-SPAM Act, Canada has CASL, and the European Union has GDPR, and it’s important to know the similarities and differences of these laws, especially if you market to consumers and businesses multi-nationally. Here’s some resources that spell things out in simple terms:


2. Visual vs Textual Visual vs textual can be a difficult balance to find because some audiences like lots of graphics, while others like lots of text. Combined with the fact that spam filters have a tendency to block ‘image only’ emails, or that some inboxes will have images turned off, there are more things to consider for your content then just whether it looks good to you. Your graphics may grab the attention of all who are skimming through, but by limiting the text, you may not reach as many inboxes as you’d like.

Email Tips: A/B test your content. Try a highly graphical email and then a more simple, plain text email and monitor your email reports for what drives the highest open and click rates.

When sending emails with a lot of images (or one big image), be sure to include some complementary text. Some inboxes do not display images right away, so having descriptive text with an image helps to avoid confusion.

Q&A: How will I know what kind of content my audience likes? A/B testing is going to be your best bet for understanding what types of content your audience engages with the most.

Is there a suggested balance between images & text in emails? Industry leaders recommend the 80:20 rule (80% text and 20% images), but once again...A/B testing your content with your audience and paying attention to how people engage is going to provide the perfect balance for YOU.


3. Subject Lines Matter It might seem inconsequential, but a subject line can make or break an email’s path to the inbox. Not only do you want an email subject that will get past spam filters, but will also entice your audience to open and engage.

Email Tip: A quick rule: Special characters like $ or %, as well as lots of !!!!! or ALL CAPS should not be used in subject lines.

Q&A: Is there a recommended length for a good subject line? Yes! Think short and sweet when it comes to your email subject line. Keep it between 10 – 50 characters in length….just enough to grab attention and entice your audience to open.


4. Keeping Lists Clean Sending emails to lists with active email addresses is important, because it demonstrates to email filters that you are a responsible sender. Stay away from “general” email addresses such as [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], etc.

Email Tips: Elevate's email marketing platform automatically removes any hard bounced or unsubscribed email addresses from your account for you, but if you have leads that have not engaged for a long time (or ever) try changing up your approach by moving those contacts to an occasional outreach list.

Q&A: How can I tell if a contact is engaging with my emails? In your email reports, look for overall opens and clicks. To check out a specific contact, you can view their engagement under their contact record. If a lead or contact hasn’t opened or engaged with your emails in more than 6 months to a year, you may want to look at changing your messaging to them or removing them from your campaign.


5. Frequency is Key Some may fear sending too many emails to their database and making them mad, some may not care and just want content sent to everyone, every week. The main consideration should be setting expectations for your recipients so their focus is on the value of the content you are providing, not how often you are providing it. While sticking to a consistent schedule with some things is important (i.e. monthly newsletter, agent showcase), sending other things on a more varied schedule is totally fine when you’re targeting specific groups with that more timely content (i.e. open house/event invitation, a closing congratulation, new listing announcement).

Email Tips: Have lists in your database that are designated for more routine emails like monthly newsletters, and then have lists for more varied, targeted emails like open house invitations, congratulation emails, or new listing announcements that you can send more frequently.

Using A/B testing & your reports will make it easy to see if your messaging & frequency is hitting that sweet spot for your audience. Some people like content often, and some don’t, just look for signs like low engagement or high unsubscribes on your more frequent emails and then adjust your rate of sending accordingly.

Q&A: How can I tell if I’m sending too many emails? People usually aren’t too shy about letting you know, but another easy way to tell is through your reports and a little trial and error. If you are sending emails weekly to the same contacts and experiencing high unsubscribe rates or low open rates, that is your audience speaking to you through their actions that you may want to scale back. Just pay attention & you’ll find that frequency sweet spot.

What if I don’t want to send more than my monthly newsletter? While you are certainly welcome to stick with your monthly newsletter, just remember that you get out of your marketing what you put into it. The Elevate platform provides you with plenty of opportunity and resources to take your online marketing to the next level, and we’re always happy to help! The most important question is – “What content will help me and my audience achieve our goals?”.


6. Content is King...always & forever more If people aren’t interested in engaging with your content, it really doesn’t matter how much of it you are putting out there. Think of your content like a conversation tool that you can use to build trust in your brand, positions you as the go-to expert, and mitigates any hesitation they may have about working with you. When your content is engaging and speaks to your audience, it produces better results.

Email Tips: Rather than sending all of your content to everyone, every time, take a few minutes to split your contact lists into segments that you can target.

For example: Your consumer audience should be split into segmented lists such as 'active buyers', 'active sellers', 'past clients', 'friends and family', etc.

If you are recruiting, split your audience by their current affiliation, production levels, personal relationships, and/or their lead source.

Segmenting your lists will make it so much easier to speak directly to those contacts with content that will drive interest and engagement.

Q&A: How will I know what content is engaging/interesting? First, ask yourself who your audience is and what types of content make sense for them (i.e. You wouldn’t send an open house invitation to someone you just helped buy a home). Next, take a look at how past content performed with each audience. What types of content drives the highest open and click rates for each audience? Send more of that type of content!

I’m struggling with content. Can you help? The Elevate team is constantly curating great content from all around the web for you to share with your audience. Check out our extensive content library for currently trending articles and information you can share with your various audiences. Also, feel free to contact the Elevate Success Team for some recommendations.

7. Be Conscious of Your Reply-To Address Your reply-to name and email is one important factor that can easily be overlooked when it comes to your inbox placement. Be sure to avoid ‘generic’ reply to names and emails such as [email protected], [email protected], etc…and instead use an email address associated with your own private domain. Why? One word, credibility. Anyone can make a free gmail account (many spammers do), but using a private domain ([email protected]) will add credibility to your message in the eyes of not only your recipients, but also with spam filters looking for generic addresses that are commonly used by spammers.

Email Tips: Using generic or free domains isn’t the only thing to avoid, you want to also avoid using email addresses like [email protected] or [email protected] addresses because they are not very friendly-looking or personable. Remember, your marketing should be about building relationships. If you prefer to get mail in a certain inbox, but don’t want that to be your reply-to address for marketing emails, set up a separate address that forwards the replies to your main inbox.

Q&A: How important is my reply-to name and email? There’s the human element of making your emails seem colder and less personal, but there’s also the higher likelihood of [email protected] addresses being marked as spam. This article from Webvision actually spells things out pretty well.

What if I don’t have a private domain? Get one. A private domain is inexpensive and is 100% worth the effort. It gives you, your business and your emails another layer of authenticity, and you will have more control over your domain reputation which we cover in the next section. Go register your domain at godaddy.com.


8. Update your SPF Record Email service providers like Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, Outlook, etc. are designed to look for emails that say they are sent from one source ([email protected]), but are actually being sent from somewhere else (ie. 3rd party sender such as eMerge). The premise is, you don’t want someone masquerading as you, but you want to use a 3rd party like eMerge for your bulk email sending. How do you address the issue? With an updated SPF record. Your SPF record is a way to confirm that emails coming from another source (like eMerge) are approved by you, and it helps provide more control and security for both yourself and your recipients.

Email Tips: An easy way to tell if you need to update your SPF record is if a preview of an email you are building goes into your junk folder. It means your inbox knows it didn’t send that email and just needs confirmation that it’s indeed you.

Your SPF record is located in the hosting for your email domain, so usually your hosting service can make that update for you in a just a couple minutes using our SPF record guide.

Q&A: When an email says it’s ‘spoofed’, is it because of my SPF record? Some email service providers will display a message saying an email is ‘spoofed’, because they are unsure if the email is legitimately coming from you. Updating your SPF record tells those email providers (like Gmail, AOL and Yahoo) that the sender is really you.

How do I update my SPF record? Luckily, this is super easy for you to do. Follow the steps in our Help document, or you can forward the link to our Help document to your domain hosting service and request they update it for you.

In the end, there isn’t one silver bullet that’s going to get you into every inbox, but following the best practices we’ve provided are all big steps on the right direction. Regardless, there are still some factors that are out of your control: recipients will have custom security protocol on their inbox, different email service providers will treat content differently (ie. the Gmail promotions tab), or you may just catch someone on a bad day and they mark your email as spam. The best thing you can do to reach the inbox is to pay attention to what your audience wants / needs, and provide them that information in a consistent manner...and keep those email lists clean.