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I do a ton of tech support. As it turns out, my biggest support challenge recently was for myself. Let me explain…

Email Open Rates

I typically get about a 25 to 30% open rate for my emails (the industry average is 21.33%). So slightly better than average. In the past couple of months however, I saw my open rates plummet to around 7%. That is scary.

I really didn’t think I had upset that many people. I knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t figure it out. I checked and double-checked to make sure I was not on any email blacklists. That definitely wasn’t the problem. I checked my email stats. It showed that 73.5% of my emails had been delivered, with 0.02% bounces and 0 percent unsubscribes.

Spam Settings

I tried sending an email to myself, and it said it was delivered, but it never showed up in my inbox (or my spam folder)! I discovered that my host uses a program called “Spam Expert”, which puts incoming emails into a “quarantine” period. If you don’t go in and manually release these emails from quarantine, it deletes them after a few days. That explained why I wasn’t getting emails from some of you.

But it didn’t explain why my emails weren’t being delivered, unless every email provider employed a similar software program and my emails were showing as delivered, but never really were.

I finally found a way to by-pass the quarantine setting in “Spam Expert” and am now receiving all my emails (if it thinks it it spam, the program now marks it as such, but delivers them anyway, so I always get them). That is much better, but I still had a problem with deliverability. Actually two problems: one from my email marketing program and one from my regular email.

Email Service Providers

As I said, you can check to see whether or not your domain has been blacklisted by visiting https://mxtoolbox.com/blacklists.aspx. I tested webstoresltd.com and it was clean. But, the email service provider I had been using was SendGrid. There are actually hundreds of email blacklists, not just one, and SendGrid was listed on one of them. That might have been part of the problem.

But emails were being delivered, just not opened. Which meant something else was also going on. So I tried a different email service provider and ran a test (many of you were included in that test, and a really, really appreciate your help). Here is what I discovered:

One group only had an open rate of 0.7 percent. This who did get emails from this group (SendGrid) reported that the emails were going into their spam folder. Many of these were to gmail accounts, but not all. The other group elicited all kinds of responses including replies to my email, text messages, and even phone calls! This second group was sent using a different email service provider (in this case, MailPoet).

I ran a third set of tests and found that using SendInBlue as the mail provider allowed my emails to end up in people’s regular email boxes and I could still use the MailPoet plugin. For now, that is what I have settled on.

As for my regular emails, I spent some time with my hosting company and learned that I needed to merge my SPF records rather than having two separate ones.

A sender policy framework (SPF) record is a type of DNS TXT record that lists all the servers authorized to send emails from a particular domain. SPF records were originally created because the standard protocol used for email — the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) — does not inherently authenticate the “from” address in an email. This means that without SPF, an attacker can easily impersonate a sender.

If you have two SPF records, the mail will look only at the first one (my email marketing program) and this does not permit emails to be sent from email accounts which are connected to my domain name (webstoresltd.com) from one of the sending IP addresses. So, the the email gets rejected/goes straight to the spam folder depending on the configuration of the recipient’s mail server.

I now have a merged SPF record and all my emails from both sources should be getting delivered!

And hopefully you are now getting my emails!

Lessons Learned

One would think that when you send an email that the person on the other end would simply get that email much like a text message. But email does not work that way. There are a lot of variables that go into email marketing, and as you saw from my stats, only about 73 percent of my emails were even being sent. Of those, most were ending up in some sort of quarantine and the rest in people’s spam folders.

Email is essentially unreliable, even though it is necessary and remains one of the top marketing methods for contacting customers. SMS Text messages have a much higher open rate than emails, so I recommend that form of communication over emails. In fact, Facebook Messenger is also more reliable than email.

Still, email is here to stay. If your open rates or delivery rates are not performing for you – it may not be your list, it might be your service provider. Hopefully this article will have helped you look for a solution.

Time to Re-Boot (New Opportunity for You!)

If you have missed any of my newsletter articles in the past 2 months, they are all available at https://webstoresltd.com/education/blog/.

Because of the problems I was experiencing, I will be re-launching my Master’s Program this month! You will once again have the opportunity to participate in the 5 day free course and the option to enroll in the complete program which will now start the first week of March. You can register for the program still as a charter member at https://webstoresltd.com/masters/. I will send out new dates for the 5 day program soon.

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