Welcome to Salsa Engage! Since Engage is a new part of your communications platform, it needs a careful introduction to the internet. Existing internet infrastructure is wary of systems that appear one day and start sending out bulk emails. Nefarious spam "artists" work that way.
Moving to a new email service is a bit like moving houses. You’re going to have a whole new address. We’ve come up with some key items which will help you get the most out of the move and ensure all your supporters hear from you as you'd expect.
Update Your SPF Record
You'll want to tell the internet you've moved. In this case, update the server name used when someone sends your email on your behalf. Your SPF record basically tells the internet that Salsa is authorized to send your emails. To ensure that the move doesn’t shock the domains that receive your email (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.), your IT team needs to update the SPF record for your domain.
Warm Up Your Email Server
When you start using a new internet address to send your emails, internet service providers may be wary if you start sending new bulk emails. You just can’t start running; you need to warm up first. As Engage is a different mailing platform, you have to "warm up" before jumping in.
To start this process, you should first segment your current subscriber/supporter population based on open/click-through rates. When you get into your Engage account, split your supporters into groups of 5-10,000 supporters each (if they aren’t that size already) and send email blasts for a few weeks using these smaller groups. This starts to establish a good reputation with Salsa and with the ISPs that previously saw you sending from a different IP range and sending domain. One way to equally split your supporters into these smaller groups is to create a new Supporter Query based on last name initials or by state.
Once you send for a couple of weeks, you can then start increasing your total send count for the rest of your supporter base. You should scale this up gradually. Don’t go from 5,000 to 50,000 the next day. Go from 5,000 to 10-20,000 for a few blasts, then to 25, to 50, and so forth. After a time, you can feel confident to send to all your subscribers that have been transferred over.
Scrub Your Lists First
Database decay happens to everyone. A little over one-fifth of your list will become stale throughout the calendar year. For this reason, it is crucial that you constantly scrub your entire list and work to grow your subscriber/supporter list.
Before you transfer all of your subscribers over for the first time, you should make hard choices about your stale subscribers. If you have any records in your old system that had previously hard-bounced, you should leave them behind. Consider moving the "graymail" supporters (those who haven't opened email in the last 6 months or more) into their own group to be targeted differently. These folks may have lost interest or they don't check their inbox often enough. If these unengaged supporters remain, they will lower open rates for any e-blast and will give a false idea of the success of said e-blast. You may also choose to omit them from your initial Engage upload altogether, especially if they have been unresponsive for longer than a year.
Segment Your Lists
You should always consider your message and its intended audience. Every email doesn't have to go to every one of your six-figure supporters. When it comes to being successful in the long run, the key is to specifically target the intended supporters in your account to ensure that you get the most opens, and donations possible. Be consistent. ISPs evaluate opens/clicks and replies back to emails you are sending. From this, they know you are sending content that your supporters like.
Keep Your Data Clean
The most important thing to do is keep track of your supporters who are or are not opening your emails and clicking on links. Your supporters will stop opening your emails. Though that can be disconcerting, that is just the reality of email. Identify who isn’t opening emails for a period of time (this is done through our Supporter Query tool) and run a re-engagement campaign. Send them an email and if they open or click on a link stating they still wish to receive emails, keep them as subscribed. For the ones that don’t, unsubscribe them.
Subject Line Advice
Here are some best practices relating to good subject lines:
- Personalization is a hot-topic email marketing trend. Personalize your subject line using the button at the end of the Subject Line that looks like a silhouette and is called the Add Merge Field button.
- Be clear and concise about what your email contains. Don't mislead.
- A/B test different email subject lines. Prove what works best for your audience.
- Avoid spam trigger words. 69% of emails that are flagged as spam are flagged as such because of the email subject line. Lots of research has been done to identify the words that throw up red flags on spam detectors. Using certain words in your email subject lines can result in your email being automatically blocked or sent directly to your recipients’ spam folders. Here is the list of the most common spam trigger words that are flagged by spam detectors. Browse it at your leisure and educate yourself on which words to stay away from in your email subject lines.
- Use numbers. Email subject lines that contain numbers have been proven to generate higher open rates than those that do not.
- Emojis. There is conflicting evidence. What seems innocent to you may be offensive in another culture or mean something entirely different in our own youth subculture. If your audience is in any way multicultural or international, you should refrain from using emojis. They could hurt you more than they help you.
Watch Out For Spam Traps
Spam traps are email addresses created by inbox providers, internet security firms, and others to trap unscrupulous email marketing campaign managers who do not champion opt-in email best practices. These spam trap email addresses are real addresses but are never used for communications. These spam traps are difficult to identify as such; if they were easily identified, they would be poor spam traps. Read more about spam traps.
If you are making sure that you are getting all your contacts to opt-in to receive your communications, you should have nothing to fear. However, if you have used email addresses from dubious third-party lists or scoured the internet yourself for email addresses and added them without an opt-in possibility, the spam trap may catch you.
Avoid Sending Blasts From These Domains
Never use the following domains for your "From" email address:
Many email clients automatically block emails from these domains or send them directly to spam. To ensure deliverability, these domains should not be used in the senders ("From") address.
What Supporters Can Do to Whitelist
On your sign-up forms, ask supporters to be sure to whitelist your "from" email addresses with their email service provider and to check spam if they don't hear from you. Supporters whitelist your email address when they add you to an approved senders list. This tells their email service provider that they know you as a sender and trust you. This ostensibly keeps emails from you out of the junk folder. In general, this is how you whitelist an email address:
- Add the address to your contacts.
- Mark messages as ‘Not spam’ (Gmail).
- Create a filter in Google to whitelist email from any domain. Click the 'gear' icon in the top-right corner, and then Settings.
- Click on Filters and then Create a new filter.
- Enter the domain of the email you want to whitelist in the From field
- Click Create filter with this search.
- In the box labeled When a message arrives that matches this search select Never send it to spam.
- Click the Create filter button.
- Add the address to your safe senders (Outlook.com, Windows Live Mail, Hotmail, and MSN Mail).