Case Study: American Retail Company Manages to Unspam in Gmail
What could be worse than to choose email marketing as your destiny... but soon find that all your mailings are spam listed by top email services?
The only worse situation is when you can’t escape from the email spam list.
There are a lot of companies that face such troubles. A wise email marketing brings big profits but mindless approach may block the development of this sales channel.
Real life cases of using Gmail for email marketing gave us a clearer understanding how to unspam, what tools we need and what must be forgotten.
Why are some companies' emails marked as spam?
The root causes of spam listing may be quite trivial. Marketers could just make the following mistakes:
Watched some video courses on cool email marketing but something went wrong
Decided to reactivate the database collected during 5+ years
Exceeded the allowed number of mailings but messages structure was always the same (as well as offers)
They found too late what Double-opt-In is.
They forgot that "Subscribers", to be honest, are really not your subscribers at all but simple consumers from website, and they like "spam" button very much.
They didn’t add "Unsubscribe" link to newsletter.
What happens when your mailings are in email spam list?
Channel incomes are decreasing.
In 90% of cases, your client don’t know about your emails at all.
Mailing statistics are spoiled because spam complaints are not displayed in this case.
All your efforts to compose efficient email are reduced to zero.
Sender's domain reputation is being corrupted.
The problem is that there are no precise manuals how to unspam yourself. Everything is very personal. Only testing and analyzing all the key factors one can understand how to get delivery and escape this trap.
It’s even not always clear what influenced the way out from spam.
In this article, the case of Goso (an American retail company) unspamming is analyzed. Goso is an online store selling special goods for home, car and active leisure time.
Their main target audience are men who buy goods for their cars and outdoor activities.
The company met troubles with Gmail email marketing, so they contacted us in December 2016; they used MailChimp previously.
They sent newsletter campaigns to 2 groups:
- contacts that were collected from the website without Double-opt-In (double confirmation) use - 1652 contacts
- consumers from Ebay - the entire database that contained 54153 contacts at the initial stage.
The main massive of contacts were Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail users - 37% of the entire database.
How was Goso company spam listed by Gmail
Goso marketers reactivated their "Ebay inactive contacts" database. This strategy was never tested in their Gmail email marketing before.
Regular promo mailings with regular offers were sent to 5400+ contacts of inactive database, it continued for a month.
After the first campaign in September, Open Rate was quite good - 13%. Having seen such indicators marketers included this segment in their mailings again and again.
But by October 20, all the key KPI for mailing campaigns (including Open Rate) dropped sharply: GosoDirect corporate mailings were spam listed by Gmail.
Common OpenRate diagram
Delivery rate in Gmail
Why did Goso choose eSputnik?
GosoDirect decided to change the mailing system and contacted eSputnik marketing service in the beginning of November 2016 with the problem described above. It was important for the company to have close interaction with technical support and an account manager able to control all their email marketing using Gmail and lead them step by step away from spam list.
The main task eSputnik faced back then were to unspam Goso in Gmail and to analyse their delivery rate on top email services.
What hypothesis did we venture
"Emails were spam listed by Gmail because of high frequency of mailings to contacts from inactive database and poor offers. That were the exact reasons why mailings became unwanted for subscribers"
Further we needed to check and elaborate this supposition.
We moved all their activities from Mail Chimp to eSputnik and gradually began to build the communication with clients; each time we tested every new method how to get delivery escaping from email spam list.
Technical aspect and situation study
To make sure that messages were really spam listed we conducted a test mailing. Gmail reacted immediately and sent message right to spambox.
Gmail also informed us that emails were marked as unwanted earlier.
Having clicked "More details" link we found the indicated factors that could affect it.
We excluded almost all the items of that list. So our attempt to find something useful and helpful there was failed.
Therefore, the next step was to get acquainted with the basic recommendations how to arrange the bulk mailings when using Gmail for email marketing.
Studying these recommendations we found the following weaknesses by some points and then quickly fixed everything.
Authentication and Identification
To exclude these troubles from the possible spam listing reasons we configured DKIM records, SPF entries publishing and DMARC policy.
We also noted that all the bulk mailing messages should have the same address in "From" line.
Subscription / Configuring communication with new clients
Each client should understand where and how he subscribed to mailings and why he receives messages at all. Company didn’t have an opportunity of direct integration with eSputnic but it was necessary to collect contacts (and do it in legal way).
Therefore we independently sent a subscription confirmation to the clients that were imported from Ebay cloud.
It looked like this:
Those customers who have confirmed the subscription received a welcome series with a promo code. We didn’t send anything else to those who refused to subscribe.
After every new import (about 100 contacts) and running a script, this chain brought us about 20 new subscribers who read and react our emails in the future.
A mailing campaign with brief company info and proposal to subscribe to our newsletter was started for those who made their first order directly on Goso website and were transferred to our system via Zapier:
Promo campaigns and design
To understand how delivery rates are changing, we needed to configure the frequency of promo mailings.
What kind of contacts did we work with?
After the internal test, the same 2 active segments remained but number of contacts changed:
- main contacts - active subscribers from Goso website + completed subscriptions after contacts import ~ 1161
- those who made orders on Ebay - 11 234 contacts left.
The emails we sent included the products offers provided by Goso, i.e. we could not influence the range of goods.
We started each promo maling with a limited frequency: 10 messages per minute, so number of messages was evenly distributed during the day.
Email open rates were still so low until February. All the technical conditions were upheld at that time; we also deleted every inactive contact from the database.
There were some spikes in delivery rate diagram when we sent the first promo mailing to active segment. Then, rates were reduced again.
We ventured the hypothesis that spam listing was caused not by technical aspects but emails content. Therefore we analyzed all the Goso email marketing using Gmail during a certain period; we also filled all the delivery rate tables by domains.
How did mailings analysis influenced the emails design
This is how our mailings were designed in that period:
These two samples are quite enough to understand the mailing requirements of Goso company- 6 to 12 obligatory product cards, a standard banner and “Go to website” button.
Having looked at the clicks map we noticed that there are too many products, so website clicks through were mostly done via banner or upper line of goods.
Statistics on the main domains looked like this.
I.e. index on main domains was quite normal. On all domains but Gmail :(
Then we provided an extended report (including analysis of structure, design and delivery rate) to Gmail top managers. After our strong arguments, administration confirmed the permission to change their approach to Goso email marketing using Gmail.
Last step away from the spam list
We totally changed the Goso mailings. You can see the rearranged email structure in the picture below.
As an outcome of the very first mailing with brand new design, we obtained the following open rate results:
Yeah! We escaped from spam list! Further solitary test mailings to different Gmail addresses confirmed this.
But the final unspamming test could be made only after at least three or four bulk mailings more. We started to work only with active contacts database collected during the last 3 months.
Our further mailings content was changed for each new Gmail email marketing campaign.
After another three mailings we were finally convinced that emails are no longer sent to spambox.
Having all that work done we came to the conclusion that spam listing is not only affected by technical aspects of mailings and database relevance. It depends a lot of your newsletters content.
Just a few raw mailings to inactive contact database caused the problem we solved for six months. If Goso marketers contacted specialist to consult how to get delivery at the very beginning, they would not bury their domain reputation for such a long time.
So protect your mailings from email spam list danger (especially when using Gmail for email marketing) and borrow from competitors and other companies not only their best practices but also experience of solving fuck-up cases).
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