Three Things to Improve Your Email Deliverability

Hint: It’s Relevancy, Segmentation, and Testing

The word “relevancy” is frequently used in the email world as it relates to email deliverability. Relevancy is key to delivering email to the Inbox. But what is relevancy, and how do you achieve this holy grail?

What is Relevancy?

Merriam-Webster defines “relevant” as “having a significant and demonstrable bearing on the matter at hand.” In short, a relevant email is one that matters to the recipient – it bears to the matters that are important to them.

How Do You Achieve Relevancy?

You can achieve relevancy by sending an email that:

  • Is wanted and expected
  • Is sent precisely at the right time
  • Is sent only as often as it will be opened and read frequently
  • Includes a subject and content specific to that recipient

Boiling all that down, let’s reduce it to this: Relevancy means “sending the right person the right message at the right time.”

Email marketing is effective when customers respond. Customers respond when they receive targeted messages from companies they care about. They like it when they’re emailed about things they’ve already shown an interest in.

Benefits of Relevancy

According to a Marketing Sherpa study, 4 out of 10 subscribers reported that they’d marked emails as spam simply because they were irrelevant. Higher relevancy leads to higher click and open rates, and lower spam complaint rates, which together are the biggest factors on whether an ISP sends your email to the Inbox or the Junk mail folder. All of this leads to higher ROI.

Achieving Relevancy?

So, what is the key to relevancy in email? The answer is to think like your customer. Find out what they are interested in and why. Then you can use what you know about your subscribers so you can send them exactly what they want when they want it. A key to increasing relevancy is through segmentation – Marketing Sherpa also found that companies with segmented campaigns produced 50% more opens and 30% more clicks.


Knowing that relevancy and segmentation are so important, how do we segment to increase relevancy and engagement rates? By following the guidelines outlined below for “Right Person, Right Message, and Right Time.” (And here’s a peek at how GreenArrow software helps you stay on track.)

Choosing the Right People

  • Start with a great sign-up page to get clear permission to email new recipients. For example, using a pre-checked checkbox decreases the relevancy of your email because many people who don’t want your email unknowingly “sign up.” You want recipients on your list that have specifically requested your email – and are excited about getting it.
  • Remove any subscribers in your lists that have not opened a message from you in over a year. The chance of any one of these subscribers buying something from you is about as likely as seeing Elvis walking down the street. It’s not going to happen. Get rid of them. If you are paying a CPM rate to your ESP to send your emails, this dead weight is costing you a bundle. Even if you are paying a flat rate, you are losing money as a result of poor Inbox delivery due to the negative mailing reputation this causes at the ISPs.
  • Next, break down the remaining subscribers into 5 categories:
    • Inactive – No opens or clicks in the last 6 months – 1 year: Use win-back (reactivation) campaigns to wake up lapsed subscribers or direct them to other channels to receive your messages. Remove lapsed addresses that don’t respond to win-back campaigns.
    • Fading – No opens or clicks for 3-6 months – You may want to decrease the frequency of emailing these recipients or use a strong special offer.
    • Active – Have opened or clicked a message in the last 3 months but have not purchased in the last 60 days.
    • VIP – Have purchased in the last 60 days – Treat your very best customers as VIPs with exclusive offers and content.
    • New subscribers – consider an auto-responder sequence to deliver a sequence of your best-performing messages to new subscribers before adding them to the Active group. Or you may add these subscribers into your Active or VIP group.
  • Track the click and open rates for each of the above categories, and use that data to improve your messages, or potentially determine any categories that are not profitable to email – where your emails are no longer relevant to that category of subscribers.

Sending the Right Message

  • Send a welcome email.
  • Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and think about what would be important to them. For example:
    • What are the motivations of your recipients?
    • Try to create emails that offer value to your recipients and relevant information, beyond just a special offer. For example, if you sell skincare products, write an article on “5 ways to keep your skin healthy in the winter” (assuming it is winter). If you sell outdoor furniture, then write an article on how to make the best backyard BBQ (and make sure that your recipe works!)
    • Customize emails based on what you know about the subscriber’s order history, types of messages they have opened in the past, etc. Use surveys to find out what people want.
  • Use a preference page to allow your recipients to tell you what categories they are interested in when they sign-up. For example: “Special Offers” and/or “Industry News” and/or “Tips.”
  • Look at open and click information to see what kinds of email content is generating the best response, and use this to learn how to create more relevant content going forward.
  • Your content and design should be short and sweet, and your offer clear and straight-forward. You may have one second of skimming to grab someone’s attention before they delete your email!
  • Use personalization and “dynamic-content” based off of tracked data such as first name, location data, past purchases, past email campaigns they have shown interest in, and any other relevant data that can be used to increase relevancy. Just don’t overdo it. You want to create trust, not creep them out.
  • Make sure the web landing page is specific to the offer. Don’t make the customer search around to find what you offered them.
  • State a relevant offer in pre-header text, which will be seen even if images are turned off. Whet the reader’s appetite so that they turn on images and read the rest of your email.
  • Make sure your emails are optimized for mobile devices. A recent Neilson survey found that more than 45% of the time spent on a smartphone was used to check emails.

Choosing the Right Time to Send the Message

  • Day of the week – emails sent Tuesday-Thursday have been shown to receive the highest open and click-through rate, as the mindset towards emails tends to drift Friday through Monday, with emails getting “lost” or ignored.
  • Automate your behavioral emails – For example, automatically send a birthday greeting email with a coupon on the subscriber’s birthday, send an email a certain interval after a purchase, or remind a customer when it’s time to renew or repurchase.
  • Send email that is triggered by real-time events – such as a welcome email immediately after subscribing, a cart abandonment email, or other relevant messages based on the subscriber’s activity on your website.
  • Drip Marketing Emails – These are similar to triggered emails in that they are prompted by an event. However, these are a predefined series of messages. A series of welcome letters could also be drip marketing emails.
  • Frequency – don’t numb the reader. Subscribers who have been on your list longer tend to respond less frequently, especially if they are inundated with too many emails. They may even unsubscribe because it all looks the same. Decrease the frequency to these readers or pause for a while, then offer them an incentive as a loyal customer.
  • Set frequency limits – Don’t over send. Especially with triggered emails, have rules in place so that you are not sending too many emails in one day or too close together.

Finally, test, test, test … then test again!

  • A/B testing: Track what worked and what didn’t work particular to each segment.
  • Test subject lines: personalized vs. no personalization, length, call to action, words, etc.
    • Type of offer: sale, free shipping, percent off, VIP exclusives, etc.
    • Content: what goes above the fold, personalization, dynamic content, call to action, length, links, etc.
    • Design: layout, branding, font size, and color, images — where and how many, HTML vs. plain text.
  • Test separately for each of the 5 categories of subscribers (see above).
  • Test for reaction (open rate, click-through, and conversion) as well as Inbox delivery, complaint rates, and unsubscribe rates.
  • Remember that even minor changes can lead to a significant result.
  • Always test during a limited timeframe to reduce the chance that time-based factors will skew your results.
  • For best results, only test one variable at a time when A/B testing. (If you want to test more than one variable at a time, use multivariate testing instead, which goes beyond the scope of this article.)
  • When a new champion is determined, run the same test more than once, perhaps to a bigger group to solidify the findings and to eliminate the “random chance” factor.
  • Retest your champions periodically – reactions can change over time.

With attention to relevancy in your messaging and timing, mailing list segmentation, and the results of your testing, you will see better delivery of your messages, and greater success with your email campaigns. The above are some of the many helpful tools and tips to consider to achieve relevancy in email. However, sometimes choosing which steps to take requires an expert guide who is removed enough from your email campaign to see it with different eyes. If you are interested in experienced consulting to help you take your email program to a higher level, make sure you choose a knowledgeable Email Deliverability team that truly understands your email delivery needs and offers a complete solution to help you achieve the best results possible.

DRH Internet, experts of Email Deliverability and Email Sending Software, provide the GreenArrow product suite, which includes GreenArrow Monitor, an Email Deliverability Monitoring product that helps maximize the insight into transactional and marketing emails reaching the Inbox. Call GreenArrow by DRH Internet today toll-free at 1-866-374-4678.


Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the GreenArrow newsletter, and we’ll email you tips, updates, and resources.