In this interview featuring email marketing expert Adrian Savage, we get to deep dive into the fundamentals of email deliverability and the 80/20 of good inbox placement.
Adrian has worked with influential digital marketers such as Neil Patel, Eben Pagan, and Ryan Levesque. He’s the founder of Deliverability Dashboard, a tool that helps you solve deliverability issues quickly by measuring your email delivery and engagement.
You will be notified everytime I have something valuable for you
Joe Troyer 0:32
Hey everybody it's Joe Troyer and welcome to another episode of show me the nuggets, I'm super excited to have none other than Adrian Savage on the podcast today, we're really going to be talking about how to make sure that the emails that you send are actually getting delivered, ending up in the inbox so that they can do what we want them to do to get opened to get clicked and to take whatever action it is that we're looking for our audience to take. So for those of you guys that don't know, Adrian, he's the founder of Deliverability Dashboard, and also runs We Deliver.Email. And guys, this is something that I'm super excited to learn about. We do lots of cold email and opted in email. I believe we do most of the basics, but I'm really just excited to pick Adrian's brain on what he sees is working and not working. So Adrian man, without further ado, welcome to the show.
Adrian Savage 1:28
Hey Joe thank you so much for having me. It's great to be here.
Joe Troyer 1:31
So you've worked with a lot of the top marketers, right? We've done our research the team, as you said, as has done their research, we know you've worked with people like Neil Patel, and Eben Pagan, and Ryan Levesque, and I'm sure many, many others. And we're going to get into all the juicy details of that. But before we do, let's let's that backwards, right, let's step back in time. And tell us a little bit about your background, not like the 10 minute 30 minute version, just give us a little abbreviated version, how'd you get started in like this crazy world of online marketing?
Adrian Savage 2:05
Well, I guess it all goes back to when I was seven when my dad brought home in the original Apple two computer. And that was my first kind of immersion into the world of it. So I've been a geek since then, did the usual stuff went to school work for people quit my job. And then 10 years ago, I learned all about marketing automation. Some of my clients had problems getting their emails through, strangely enough, and I kind of couldn't help to start with and I started learning about this, I dug into it. That's how I created we deliver software. And then over the last two to three years, it reached the point where the only thing it was worth me focusing on was email deliverability. Because let's face it, there's very few people out there that look at this stuff in the detail that I do. And it's a really cool way of helping people because everyone wants to be heard more with their emails. Everyone wants to avoid the spam folder. So why shouldn't I just get into that? And that's what I did. And I really love it. It's the one thing that I used to listen to people say was near the money's in the niches where you're the best, the better focused you are, the more successful you're going to be. And guess what it's been absolutely right is no coincidence, the last couple of years have been the best years in business for me. So I love it. And it's something that actually helps me help people and help them be successful.
Joe Troyer 5:10
That's awesome, man. I mean, you think about how much money influencers or brands or just any company out there are spending on marketing. Obviously, if they if they can't get their message delivered, they can't get their email deliverable is not hitting the inbox. Obviously, that is a huge pain. So I gotta agree with you man picking a niche focusing on it, I can imagine that, that there's a severe pain that people are in when they when they come to you?
Adrian Savage 5:35
Well, the biggest thing a lot of people is the one that spending a lot of money on advertising paid for advertising using pay per click, whether it's Google, Facebook, whatever, then your you might be spending maybe $5 $10 per lead sometimes. And then when I work with clients, we find that as few as 40% of those leads are engaging by email, when it's possible to get 80% of them to engage. So effectively, it's possible to double the return on your marketing or your advertising investment, just by nailing your email deliverability. So it makes it really important if you've got paid for traffic. And even if you're not paying for traffic, then you're still investing all the time, energy, everything else. And you just want as many people as possible to see those messages you're sending Simple as that.
Joe Troyer 6:20
That's awesome. I'm really curious for selfish reasons, right? When you talk about engagement, and that percentage, is that of everybody that opts in or how do you really define that number?
Adrian Savage 6:29
Yeah, so one of the reports are built into my dashboard tool is about looking at everyone who has opted in in the last 30 days, and what percentage of those have opened one or more emails in that time. And that's where, you know, it can be anywhere between on the low side, I've seen 25 to 30%. on the high side, I've seen 85 to 90%. But you can get 70 to 80%, as long as everything else lines up correctly.
Joe Troyer 6:51
Yeah, that makes perfect sense. Do you ever back it out to individual emails and kind of open rates? Or is your primary metric that you look at that that number, the 30, day time span percentage of engaged? Yeah,
Adrian Savage 7:05
it depends how much in the weeds I'm going to get most of the time, it's the helicopter view, that actually makes a difference, because how's everything performing at the big picture level, because, you know, individually email campaigns, they'll come and go, sometimes you get a good open rate, sometimes not so good, you're the subject line might be bad, you might end up in promotions, because you've made an offer whatever it is. But as long as you're sending enough emails out, then it's how things are performed over the last 30 days over the last 90 days. Those are the two main things that I look at, because that's what the big mailbox providers are looking at as well.
Joe Troyer 7:36
So when it comes to email marketing, what have been kind of the biggest changes that you've seen in recent times,
Adrian Savage 7:42
I guess the biggest change, if we go back, even, you know, three, four or five years ago, the good old days of email marketing, all you had to do was build a massive email list, and then just email the hell out of it and keep emailing them until they buy they die the unsubscribe. And that was how old school internet marketers used to work. And that's how some of them still do. And then they wonder why they're getting a 3% open rate. But what really changed more recently is that the big three email giants, we've got Google, we've got Microsoft, we've got Yahoo, they really did start to change the rules about three years ago. And now what they're looking at is a lot more not just on how many emails you're sending. And Where's it coming from? They're looking at what's your individual reputation as a sender looking like? And what is your what's the behavior of your audience? Are they mainly opening your emails? Or are they mainly ignoring you, and if they're ignoring you, that's bad news, because your reputation is going to get downgraded.
Joe Troyer 8:35
So I know that best practice people talk about cleaning your list all the time, right? Can you talk about what that means and why it's important.
Adrian Savage 8:43
So cleaning your list can mean one of a number of things. But the most important thing here is focusing on the engagements. I know you know, when we when we spoke before the show, then you know, your guys really worked out that engagement is really, really important. And when you're when you're keeping your email lists clean, the best thing you can do, the way you can help yourself the most is just to identify who has opened your emails recently, and just focus on them. If someone reaches say 90 days at the very most, then by that point, you must be considering whether you're gonna keep them on your list, or get rid of them. And in most cases, you're going to get rid of the only reason you might keep them on their list on your list, if they've been if they've been unengaged for 90 days is if they're a previous customer, or something like that. Otherwise, you might send them an email saying, hey, you still want to stay on my list. It looks like you haven't been reading my emails, and then maybe a couple of reminders. If they ignore all of those. They're out of here. Simple as that.
Joe Troyer 9:37
Yep, that's really interesting. So about once a year, I feel like my personal email deliverability at Digital triggers just takes a crap, like once a year, and it seems like every time with just a couple of tweaks, right? I can take my engaged list and just super engaged them for two weeks. And then it seems like my deliverability like fixes itself. And then it's like all well and good again, Is that normal? Is that like something I should be thinking about doing more proactively instead of reactively?
Adrian Savage 10:14
That's an interesting thing. So by that you're saying you actually focus on the engaged people for a while, send the emails to them, and then everything kind of improves for a while after that. So yeah, what I would tend to do is I would, I would make that a much more regular practice, because the more you focus on the hyper engaged people, the more that's going to boost your reputation on an ongoing basis. So what I tend to recommend to people these days, is, even though 90 days might be the cutoff, don't send all of your emails to the people in the last 90 days, focus on the ones that have opened much more recently, you know, it might be 30 days, it might be a bit different to that. But what I've been doing with my own list is I've been, I send emails pretty much every day now. And those daily emails, I'm only sending the people that opened in the last 30 days. And then maybe once a week, once every two weeks, something like that, I'll open it out, and I'll send something to the zero to 90 day people. But it is the tighter you manage that engagement, the better it's going to work on an ongoing basis.
Joe Troyer 11:13
That's really, really, really interesting.I've always found that like, doing some, something kind of shocking, giving away a free course something like that getting massive engagement, getting replies back to the email as well seems like it's always worked really well. But yeah, I've I've kind of, I've seen my open rates fall, I'd be at, let's say consistently 20% plus open rates. And then like, I don't do a promo where I don't mail for a week or two. And then I start mailing again. And it's like, it just tanks. It's like, you know, 7% 5%,
Adrian Savage 11:45
okay, we want to do we need to do something there then. Because I mean, my list is not particularly huge, I've only got a few 1000 on my list. And when I was mailing not every single day, I was getting 40 50% open rates. When I started mailing on a daily basis, it dropped down to about 30% an occasion girlfriends 35/38. But the reason for that is because I'm managing the engagement so much. But the thing to bear in mind as well is that the mailbox providers love consistency, and they hate change. So if you're not mailing on a regular basis, then you are going to find is more of a challenge when you pick things up again. So consistency is really, really important here. You know, I know that we might talk about mistakes later on. But the one of the biggest mistakes I see people make is they send one email a month, and then they suddenly go into full on crazy launch mode. And they send three emails a day. And guess what, that's what spammers do. So Google starts to treat like a spam when your emails end up in the spam folder. So it is all about being consistent and just sticking to a particular rhythm. You know, if you want to do daily daily emails for launches, then you need to kind of ramp up to sending more frequently than once a month before you do that.
Joe Troyer 12:57
Yeah, that makes perfect sense. For sure. Okay. Can you talk about the difference between email deliverability and inbox placement?
Adrian Savage 13:09
Okay, so yeah, this is a really, it can be a bit confusing because people use the word delivery, they use deliverability. They use inbox placement. And, yeah, the the main thing to bear in mind, and people don't always agree on the difference between deliverability and inbox placement even so I'll kind of I'll use the two phrases that I use, we talk about delivery. And then we talk about deliverability, which is kind of I see that the same as inbox placement. So if we start with delivery, that seems supposing you're using I don't know MailChimp, Active Campaign, Infusionsoft, whatever, their job, they only have one job, and that is to deliver that email to the recipients mailbox providers. That might be Google, Microsoft, whoever. So Infusionsoft will say, you know, suppose I'm sending email from my Infusionsoft to your Gmail account, Infusionsoft will go knocking on Google's door and say, hey, we've got an email for Joe, will you accept it? Yes or No, Google will say, Yes, I've accepted it. And at that point, the email has been delivered. So you know, so just like, you know, imagine the postman turning up and posting a letter through your mailbox. Now, what we don't know at this point is whether there's a dog waiting on the other side to run away and chew it up or not. And this is where the deliverability or the inbox placement comes into it. Because once Google have said, Yes, I'm accepting this email from Adrian to Joe. They're not promising to put it into your inbox. They're just saying that they've accepted it. Now Microsoft are really bad at this, they will simply just toss it in the garbage, not even the spam folder. Happily, Google don't do that that often. But then there's all kinds of other algorithms and factors that they got to take into account before they decide right? Are we going to put this into the spam folder, the promotions tab, the clutter folder, the inbox, whatever it is, and they make that decision on every single email based on things like who it's come from, how it was sent the content, the previous behavior that you as the recipient have made, all kinds of things, but the deliverability or the inbox placement is what the mailbox providers do with it after they've received it after it's been delivered by MailChimp or whoever to them. Does that make enough sense? Yeah, that
Joe Troyer 15:11
makes perfect sense. So if we narrow it down to just inbox placement, what are the big factors there? Like? What's the, what's the 80/20? Or if you apply the 80/20 itself,right?What's the 64 for like, what's the, the the primary metrics are the things that really matter in terms of good inbox placement.
Adrian Savage 15:34
So really, there's four key areas that I've broken this down into, and they are reputation, authentication, content, and surprise, surprise, engagement, which we've already mentioned. And if you take those initials, that spells out the word RACE. So it's nice and easy to remember. But you know, there's, there's specific things on each of those,
Joe Troyer 15:52
okay, and we dive into RACE a little bit more. And maybe like one or two of the top things, or whatever you think the top things are for each of them for reputation, and authentication, content and engagement.
Adrian Savage 16:06
Perfect. Okay. So reputation, then there's four specific things that I cover there. If you want to, if you're called dibs on something, when you're a kid, then it's a nice easy Dibs is the wave remote remembering remembering this. So we've got, we've got domain reputation. And that is everything that you send from your domain, then Google, Microsoft, Yahoo encode, they are tracking that reputation on your domain. And this matters a lot more than the next thing, which is the IP reputation. And that's obviously the reputation of the platform you're using, whether it's MailChimp Active Campaign, or whatever. And these days, my best guess is that 80% of inbox placement depends on the domain reputation, and 20% or less is based on the platform that you're using. Because one of the questions I get asked these days is which platform is better for email? deliverability? And the answer that I give is, it doesn't really matter. Imagine, you know, if you want to, if you want to get fit, and you're working out at a gym, if you go to a different gym and keep doing the same exercises, are you going to get any fitter, probably not and email platforms the same these days, there's no point switching from one platform to another in the hope that your emails are going to get through because they all do a pretty good job. But we got domain reputation IP, then the B stands for block lists, if you go and dive into like stupid and maybe buy an email list or scrape addresses off the internet or something like that, or get lots of spam complaints, you're going to end up on a blacklist. So you don't want to do that. And the other thing you can do, which is the S is you can mail a spam trap. And spam traps are something that need to be avoided at all costs. Because if you send too many emails or spam traps, you will end up on the block lists again. And you know, that's that's bad news. jointer mentioned quickly what a spam trap is at this stage.
Joe Troyer 17:49
Yeah, please, if you would,
Adrian Savage 17:51
sure thing, okay, so if you've not come across a spam trap before, then it's just a regular looking email address, you can't tell by looking at the email, whether it's a spam trap or not. And there's three kinds there's pristine ones, which are email addresses that have never existed legitimately. They're created by the the spam trap operators to try and catch bad people. And they will publish these addresses on the internet, they'll wait for people to copy them down and start mailing them. Anytime you hit one of those, you're, you've clearly been a very, very bad person. And you're going to end up on the blacklist. So don't touch those. I'm sure no one watching this will ever, ever have collected email addresses off the internet. It's not It's not cool. Then you've got the recycled spam traps. And their addresses that used to be legitimate is like I once had a hotmail address, and then I got rid of it, I switched to Google. So Microsoft will have disabled that hotmail address and anyone who mailed it would have got a bounce. And they would, they would know that the email address doesn't exist, and you should stop mailing it. And again, if you're using something like MailChimp, or whatever, they will automatically handle that. But then after about three months, those email addresses get reactivated. And if you keep mailing them after that point, then that's very quick demonstrations, the mailbox providers that you are not keeping your list clean, because you'll just keep keeping mailing people that don't exist. So if you haven't mailed anyone for three months or longer, you might have missed that opportunity to actually get them identified as a spam trap. So that's why it's really important to keep mailing. But those are. The third type of spam trap is a typo or spam trap where it might be Gmail is mistyped, or something like that. And again, you can keep an eye on that by making sure that you're only mailing people that open your emails. So all of those spam traps as long as you're not scraping stuff off. And as long as you're managing the the health and keeping your email is clean, and getting rid of people that don't engage and getting rid of people that bounce then you're less likely to hit spam traps, but you need to know what they are. And that comes reputation. So quickly on authentication. This is around proving the emails that you send really came from you because if you've used any email marketing platform, you'll know It normally lets you choose whatever email address you want to send things from, you know, you could claim to be sending stuff from the President and the White House if you wanted, and no one can actually stop you doing that. So they started, they started putting authentication out as a way of actually helping you deal with that. And the first thing that you need to check if you're using any kind of email marketing is to go into your platform and look for an option called email authentication. And that the acronym the buzzword for this is DKIM, which stands for Domain Keys Identified Mail. And it's just a way of digitally signing every email you send out, make sure you've got that set up. And then make sure secondly, you've got something called SPF setup, which is something you publish in your domain records. And that stands for Sender Policy Framework that tells the world who you trust to send emails on your behalf. So supposing you're using, I don't know, Active Campaign G Suite, and maybe you're sending emails from helpscout, for your help desk, you need to make sure all three of those platforms are listed in your SPF record. Otherwise, some platforms won't trust the emails that you send out. Then the last one is Demark, which defines what to do if the emails don't pass authentication, you can tell it to completely reject those emails, you can turn to put them in the spam, or you can tell it to do nothing. So all three of those up, and that will give you the best chances of getting through because the spammers can't do this. You can This is how you differentiate yourself from the spammers. And anything you want me to explain more on that? Was that good enough before we move on?
Joe Troyer 21:26
No, I think that's good enough, obviously, that's like the very technical bit. But we talk about those three things a lot. If anybody's been around me talking about email, those are kind of common things. So if these are all new to you, you can go look up tutorials on how to do all of it. The important thing is just yeah, you know, those three factors, so cool.
Adrian Savage 21:48
Absolutely. The one warning I'll quickly put in there as well. DKIM you can't really get wrong in a bad way SPF or demark. If you get it wrong, your emails gonna start going to spam.