Deliverability: Key Takeaways from Klaviyo:BOS

Email Deliverability Expert Tips

Did you miss out on Klaviyo:BOS? Or were you there…but couldn’t clone yourself to attend every session? Don’t worry — we got your back. This post is part of the series covering your key takeaways from the conference talks.

Deliverability is a topic that you might not think about often, but it’s an essential part of your email marketing. Here at Klaviyo, I’m responsible for the folks who manage all of our compliance and deliverability inquiries, so it’s a subject I’ve dealt with extensively.

It’s also something I’m always hungry to learn more about. At Klaviyo:BOS, our 2-day conference, we featured two talks on this subject: Decoding Deliverability and How to Clean Your List for Better Deliverability.

I’m going to walk you through an overview of each presentation, along with the top actionable takeaways. By the time you’ve finished reading this, you’ll know more about how to make sure your emails get where they’re going — and you’ll know more about this than the majority of email marketers out there.

Decoding Deliverability

We were thrilled to have Will Boyd speaking about deliverability at Klaviyo:BOS. Will is a Senior Email Delivery Consultant at SendGrid, which handles email sending for some of the biggest and best digital brands in the world. Will really knows his stuff.

According to Will, deliverability refers to the “measure of email you send as a sender that actually make it into the inbox.”  This means it wasn’t sent to the spam folder, bounced, or blocked completely by the inbox provider.

When SendGrid posed the question to Yahoo’s postmaster team, “What can senders do to make sure their messages get to the inbox?” they responded, “Send email recipients love.”  Inbox providers like to see that senders are paying attention to the signals their recipients are giving them. But what does that mean for you?

I highly recommend checking out Will’s talk in its entirety when the video gets posted on our site (we’ll link to it here when it’s up). In the meantime, let’s answer that question by look at the three key levers of deliverability that you can control: who you send to, what you send, and how often you send.

Who you send to: Audit your subscription process

To improve your deliverability, you need to be mindful of who you’re sending to. There are some questions you should have the answers to before you send to people: On average, how recently have they opened one of your emails? Will they enjoy receiving the content you are about to send them?

And maybe most important: How did they end up on your list in the first place?

When it comes to deliverability, Will recommends focusing on subscriber acquisition.  The process of how you organically grow your list — and the expectations you set up front — will play the biggest role in the long-term success of your email program. Conversely, if you’re having issues with spam, revisit your subscription process.

Make sure you’re being crystal clear about what someone is signing up to receive. Tell them what they are signing up to get and from whom. You’re using this onboarding process to build a relationship with a person, not simply getting permission to send them advertising.

What you send: Follow best practices

It sounds simple: Send people content they want and are excited to receive.  Give your recipients a reason to engage with your emails. And while you’re at it, apply some industry best practices:

  • Keep emails smaller than 102kb to reduce the potential of clipping
  • Make sure there’s an clear and easy way for someone to opt out
  • Limit your calls to action to just 1-3 (shown to convert better than having many)
  • Send content that at least aligns with or, ideally, exceeds subscribers’ expectations

Stay tuned in the coming weeks as we cover talks from Klaviyo:BOS that get into email design and calls to action in more depth!

How often you send: Have a sunset policy

The third aspect within your control is adjusting when and how often you send your emails. Pay attention to how frequently people are opening your emails and how many you are sending to individuals within a given timeframe.

Inbox providers look at the overall volume of emails sent and weigh engagement on the amount of emails opened.

You can check this in Klaviyo by creating an audience segment to pull everyone who’s received at least 20 emails in the last 6 months and has opened none of them.

You want this number to be low!  

If it’s higher than expected, that’s ok — you just need to put together a plan that phases people out over time if they stop engaging.

This plan is what’s referred to as a sunset policy. It’s how you’ll phase out subscribers who no longer open your emails. This prevents you from running into issues that stem from chronic non-opens. Don’t further damage your sender reputation by sending to unengaged recipients.

Final thoughts

If your emails don’t reach the recipients, they can’t generate sales for you. Over time, sending to people who don’t open your emails will also hurt your sender reputation. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ email program — every sender’s relationship with their audience is different. However, many of the factors that affect your deliverability are within your control. Check out Will’s complete slide deck for more.

How to Clean Your List for Better Deliverability

After Will presented on big-picture deliverability issues, my colleagues Aubrey and Colleen spoke about connecting these deliverability best practices to how you’re using Klaviyo. They focused on practical steps you can take in your Klaviyo account to send in a way that is designed to improve your deliverability.

They reinforced many of the same points Will made:

  • Understand where your subscribers are coming from
  • Weed out chronic non-openers
  • Reduce or stop your sending to people who never open your emails. In fact, as Colleen pointed out, some of these subscribers are actually spam traps.

There’s one primary takeaway that I want to make sure you get from their talk: sending to an engaged segment is huge.

Sending to an engaged segment

If there’s one thing I want you to take away after reading this, it’s that recipient engagement is the most important factor in the success of your email program.

One way you can protect your deliverability is by sending the majority of your email to a group of engaged contacts.  Klaviyo makes this easy with the power of segmentation. When creating an engaged segment, the most important piece of criteria to add is specifying that profiles need to be in a list that subscribers are actively opting-in to.

After you add this criteria, it’s also important to filter further and only allow profiles who have been subscribers for at least 30 days to be included.  Doing so will give your newest subscribers some time to engage before they filter into your unengaged segment if they do not open or click.

Creating these segments will likely yield a smaller collection of profiles compared to your overall active profile count, but this is perfectly normal.

Some crucial pieces of criteria for your engaged segment are as follows:

  • Should be list inclusive: “Is in list X”
  • Filter on the timeframe from subscription: “Was added to list before date X”
  • Include recent open & click criteria: “Has opened or clicked email at least once in the last 30 days”
  • And always add “user is not suppressed” so you get a clear number of how many people you’d be emailing (otherwise your suppressed users will be counted)

We have an awesome guide that talks about how to create engaged profile segments — check it out.

Moving forward

Even when you’re disciplined about sending to an engaged segment of your subscribers, you’ll want to monitor your progress. If you’re a Klaviyo user, you can use three tools that Aubrey recommended to monitor your list growth and gain insight into your overall recipient engagement:

  • Growth report – captures data regarding your list’s growth over time. See how it works.
  • Engagement report – help you understand the quality of the lists and segments you are sending to. Take a look.
  • Campaign trends report – allows you to track how your campaigns are performing in the aggregate. Learn how to use it.

Using best practices and monitoring your results are significant components in improving your deliverability. You can review the slides from this talk, along with related resources. Go the extra mile on deliverability now, and we think you’ll be pleased with the results you see from your email marketing over time.

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