Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Perfecting Delivery and Viewing of your Emails

Ensuring that your emails are delivered as intended, are not flagged as junk, and appear correctly regardless of the recipient’s inbox is a critical thing to consider in managing your communications.

There are many critical things you should do in order to maximize your email deliverability, and ensure that your email content is highly relevant to your recipients. To understand where you are and where you need to make more progress on, however, there is no substitute for frequent testing.

To make this easy for you, Eloqua comes with a built in suite of tools to allow you to test and analyze a variety of these key areas. We talked about the analysis and reporting tools for email deliverability a few weeks back, but now we'll look at more proactive tools for understanding your email prior to sending.

For any email you are interested in analyzing, choose QuickSend Email to bring up the QuickSend interface and use the External Testing tab. This allows you to run a number of tests against that email to verify how it is delivered and presented to the recipients. For most clients, these tests are included in your subscription (up to a set number per month), talk with your customer success manager to verify.

The Inbox Viewer test shows you a preview of exactly what that email looks like in a particular inbox or email service provider. Many clients render images, layouts, backgrounds, or styles differently, which can alter the way your email appears, and hence its effectiveness. When you run the inbox preview tests, you are given a report which displays exactly what the recipient will see.

Whereas we would all like it if there was a single standard for what content can be displayed in an email client, and how it should be rendered, the reality is that there are significant disparities. The combination of browser and email service provider for web-based providers adds a new dimension as Gmail under IE may render differently than Gmail under Firefox.

On top of this complexity, rendering images may be prevented by the email client, by being offline, or by not being supported on a mobile device. Viewing how your emails render with and without images is crucial to ensuring that they connect with your recipients.

The Email Content test analyzes the content of your emai looking for known issues in your content, the format of your HTML, or your writing that will cause issues with recipient systems.

This is a very deep and powerful test, very much worth looking at. It analyzes your content for potential viruses (even embedded forms can be seen as viruses by some filters, due to credit card scams), and then looks for known triggers of spam flags as well as using common Bayesian (adaptive) filters to look for common flags.

Also included within this report are a variety of accreditation and authentication tests to ensure that your IP address is properly identified as yours. As this is managed by Eloqua, you are unlikely to see any problems in this area, but should any arise, be sure to notify your customer success manager.

The Domain Deliverability seed list tests will attempt to send your email to a pre-defined list of email inboxes on a variety of service providers. You can select from a seed list that is focused on B2B, B2C or International email inboxes. The test results will display whether the email was delivered, whether it was flagged as junk, or was blocked entirely. Results will also show an indication of why any problems are taking place, which gives you a good indication of where to look in order to fix any discovered problems.

The report will show a number of ISPs, the time of receiving emails (some ISPs will throttle suspect emails), and the percentage of emails that are delivered, missing, or flagged as spam.

All three types of tests are worth running a few times each month or before any major campaign in order to understand whether there will be any issues that can be easily avoided.

Note that the tests may take up to 2 hours to return results as they are actually sending emails and retrieving results from a variety of system, each of which may have delays, so give yourself time for the results to be delivered.