Permission Is a Good Start…

Almost There...…but there’s more to good email deliverability than permission alone.

Much goes into getting email delivered, and fortunately your email service provider (such as *ahem* AWeber ;)) takes care of a lot.

However, you hold some of the keys to good deliverability in your hands, too. But if you don’t use them, you’ll have to confront declining delivery and response rates.

Relevancy Matters Too! (Just ask AOL and Yahoo)

The recently completed FTC Spam Summit underscores how relevancy affects your deliverability. Comments from a couple of major ISPs indicate that (as Mark Brownlow says) it’s about unwanted email, not just what we normally think of as “spam.”

Check out what AOL Postmaster Charles Stiles had to say:

“It is really about what the consumer wants. Even if they asked to receive the e-mail, if they do not find value in it, then it is not a good e-mail. We want to make sure that our customers are happy.”

Notice how he suggests that permission isn’t enough?

Follow that up with comments from Yahoo’s Miles Libbey:

“Operationally, we define spam as whatever consumers don’t want in their inbox.”

…and you’ll see we’re not talking just about unsolicited bulk email, are we? The ISP perspective takes “spam” further than that.

If You’re Not Relevant, You’re Irrelevant

Relevancy affects your reputation, which affects your deliverability.

If you’re not providing value to subscribers, their actions with your messages will reflect that. ISPs track what’s done with your messages, and can choose to filter you out if they find you’re not “what the consumer wants.”

How Do I Stay Relevant?

Relevancy has to do with whether what someone wants and expects to receive from you is actually what they do get from you.

Start off by setting subscriber expectations. You have a number of opportunities to do this, but none more important than when someone first signs up. Here, you must answer two key questions:

  • What are you going to email me?
  • How often are you going to email me?

Once you do that, reinforce those expectations (and stay relevant) by meeting them — by emailing them as often as you told them you would, and by consistently providing value in your messages.

Don’t Forget Permission

It’d be easy to read this post and come to the conclusion that permission doesn’t matter at all as long as you’re relevant.

Permission + Relevancy = Deliverability. Miss either, and you may miss the inbox.

The problem with that is, how could you consistently provide relevant, valuable content to people who hadn’t told you what they consider to be relevant and given you permission to send it to them?

Top-notch email deliverability comes from the combination of permission and relevancy (plus email authentication and a whole lot of other technical stuff that we handle for you). You can’t substitute relevancy for permission, or vice versa.

Remember, permission is specific — people ask for a specific set of information, at a specific time, from a specific party (you). Relevancy complements that permission as you consistently provide value to subscribers.

Further Reading:

Email Marketing Reports: The ISPs Speak

UPDATE: Google just put their $.02 in as well… very similar comments to those made by AOL and Yahoo!