One of the common questions I am asked by email marketers is “Why do our marketing emails go into one person’s inbox and into another person’s junk folder” This question is even more important when the email account that your email is being junked in, is the organizations President! The fact that one person’s junk is another person’s inbox, is a reflection of the way that the email providers personalize user’s experience. Web-mail providers have to deal with high volumes of spam, which accounts for about 95% of the email traffic globally. As you can see, your inbox would look a very different place if this spam was not filtered first!
As another way of reducing inbox clutter, the email providers also try to filter out “unwanted email” from the person’s inbox. This can be quite subjective, and a perfect solution is yet to be devised, so the junk folder can be seen as where the email provider puts email is not entirely sure about. It’s got to be remembered that the email provider is trying to improve the user’s experience, even if it is at the cost of marketing emails not getting through.
So, how do they do it?
In a nutshell, it depends upon the email provider, but the following metrics are monitored when deciding on where to put the email.
This is a combination of data from third parties and data that the email provider collects (all or some of the metrics below). This data is used to determine if a sender is more or less likely to be sending spam, either linked to the IP address of the sender, the domain, or both.
The higher the sent volume, the more you are likely to look like a spammer. Usually thresholds of volume are linked to Reputation, so a sender with good sending reputation can send a higher volume before going into junk than a sender with a poor reputation.
Speed of send
This is similar to the volume metric, in that good reputation allows you to send faster than a poor reputation. With some email providers, once the threshold is reached, the email is deferred for a time period (between 12 and 72 hours) and when the block is lifted, the threshold is further reduced.
Good mailers have good list hygiene and will remove email addresses that permanently bounce, or who have not responded to an email in a long time period (usually between 12 to 24 months). Spammers don’t do that, the more bad data you send, the more like a spammer you look.
A sender that many people complain about, is more likely to go into the junk folder, than one that has few complaints.
Looks at how often people open and click your emails, emails that are actively opened and clicked by recipients, are more likely to go into the inbox.
As well as emails being sent to junk being a bad vote for your email campaigns, if your recipients start to move your emails from Junk into the inbox, this is seen as a positive vote by some email providers.
If you send old, inactive data, you will inevitably end up on a blacklist. This is because many of these blacklists, monitor old and inactive email addresses, that no longer solicit emails (Trap addresses). The more of these you hit, the more likely to go into junk you are.
email providers have developed sophisticated pattern matching technology that scores your emails for either looking more or less like a spam email. For emails that look very much like spam templates, the email provider can build a “spam signature” which will allow them to pattern match and junk any template that matches the signature.
Why is the junking so inconsistent?
Depending on the email provider, these metrics either work on an individual’s mailbox, or act as a default for everyone’s mailbox that there is no firm setting for. So if an individual has added you to their safe senders list, they should generally get the email into the inbox (unless you are blocked). If the recipient has marked your emails as junk, they will go into the junk folder (if they get them at all). It is also possible for the default mailbox placement to change while the campaign is being sent, so it might start off in Junk, and then move to the inbox as the response data is processed by the email provider.
Generally an email will stay in whatever folder it is classified to initially, although some email providers are now able to change the folder classification, effectively moving emails from one folder to another based on the data they are monitoring.
How do I fix it?
As you might have noticed, most of these metrics are designed to identify mailers who don’t care what they send out, and don’t care who they send it to. The more wanted and welcome your emails are to your recipients, the more the data will reflect that.
Defining how to segment your data to achieve this is a large subject, but the overriding strategy should always to base your customer communication program on the customers themselves. Sending emails with content that people will find relevant , at a time when they will welcome them, should be the focus for any email marketing campaign. Only then will your email go where you want it to.