Welcome to the fifth blog in our ‘Ask the Expert’ interview series, where we bring you industry experts to talk about outstanding practices in email marketing.
Sella Yoffe is the founder of DATAMEDIA that helps companies, startups, and ESPs with email deliverability, email authentication, and email marketing. He enables eCommerce and retailers to grow-hack their lists by improving email deliverability and squeezing more revenue out of their email campaigns. Sella is globally sought-after for his podcasts and blogs that cover marketing best practices across segments such as email, digital, growth, direct, and content.
In this Q&A blog, Sella talks about email deliverability, authentication protocols, selecting an Email Service Provider (ESP), and more.
1. Could you share a bit about your background and how you became an expert in email marketing and deliverability? What sparked your interest in this field, and what kind of work have you done in this area over the years?
I began my career in the 90s, doing direct mail and database marketing. Many years I’ve spent in the data quality space. When clients asked me to validate their email addresses, along with their phone numbers and physical addresses, I started learning more about email deliverability. This sparked a new passion within me. Today, I provide deliverability and strategy consulting services to companies, startups, and Email Service Providers. Besides consulting, I am a blogger and podcaster, publishing bi-weekly blogs and podcasts about email marketing and deliverability in Hebrew.
2. Given your extensive experience in this field, what are some of the most common email deliverability challenges that you’ve seen, and how have you helped clients overcome them? Do any interesting examples come to mind?
Deliverability is built and maintained around reputation. I’m amazed how many brands skip that crucial first step into deliverability – properly authenticating their sending domain. Utilizing the brand’s domain will enable them to build and sustain a reputation associated with their sending domain. Sending emails without proper domain authentication means using the Email Service Provider’s (ESP) shared domains. Shared domains also share reputation, which can have both positive and negative impacts on deliverability. The sender’s domain will appear as ‘via’ or ‘on behalf’ rather than the sender’s actual brand domain. It’s best to use the brand’s ‘dedicated domain’ for email sending to build and maintain reputation.
3. What are some of the best practices in email marketing that you follow religiously to help improve the campaigns of your clients? Do you have any specific advice for marketers on choosing their ESP?
It’s important for customers to see their email programs like a building with a sturdy foundation. Deliverability – both the technical and strategic aspects – are the foundations of a solid email program. In fact, across this metaphorical building’s floors are other crucial elements. However, deliverability serves as its fundamental core. So, I advise my clients to look at their email program with a deliverability lens in mind.
When selecting an Email Service Provider (ESP), it’s best to avoid being swayed by popular name brands (name-dropping), which is a common practice. Instead, I recommend creating a Google Sheets table that compares the features you prefer and dislike about your current ESP. This comparison will help you make an informed decision and choose the right ESP for your needs. Use that table to list functionalities you wish it had, and include things you’ve observed other tools offering that are essential for you. I recommend involving other stakeholders in this process. Occasionally, you may find that your current ESP effectively fulfills your requirements. If you decide to switch, bring several platforms to the discussion that can meet your needs based on the table you’ve crafted.
4. How important are the ‘From’ name and ‘email address’ in email deliverability, and how can marketers choose a recognizable ‘From’ name that accurately represents their brand?
The email address associated with a person can remain consistent and usually depends on the brand’s size. For example, [email protected] or [email protected] (refer to the next point). The ‘Friendly From’ name is something brands can experiment with without risking their deliverability. The email address, the ‘Friendly From’ name, and the subject lines (along with pre-headers) all function as cohesive units. It’s important for every brand to play and experiment to find the right combination.
5. What are your thoughts on email authentication protocols such as SPF, DKIM, and DMARC, and how do they impact email deliverability? How important are these email security features for a brand, and what benefits do they offer?
While it may seem straightforward – One, two, three, done. You’re authenticated! – the reality is often much more complex. Many brands and people (including IT teams) (who should know email authentication), actually struggle with it.
Email authentication is the first step toward email deliverability. When I consult my clients, I typically begin by assessing all email requirements within the organization. Almost every business email serves several purposes. Types of emails can be divided into three categories: transactional, operational, and marketing. Transactional emails are those that confirm orders and reset passwords. Operational emails are reports or invoices. Marketing emails are newsletters and promotional campaigns.
Every part of this infrastructure must be properly authenticated. This is where DMARC comes into play. I typically implement a DMARC tool at this early stage to help me identify email platforms that send on behalf of a domain. Surprisingly, these are often email-sending platforms that send emails on behalf of a domain nobody recalls owning. Those need to be fixed or shut down.
DMARC combines SPF and DKIM and puts them into context. As we move towards full DMARC enforcement, we can consider adding a BIMI logo (and the new Gmail blue check mark). To do so, you’ll need a VMC certificate, DMARC enforcement, and a BIMI logo.
6. How can marketers segment their email list to ensure that messages are relevant to each subscriber, and what types of segmentation should they consider to reduce spam complaints?
Spam complaints are typically associated with a lack of expectation management. Start by sending emails only to individuals interested in receiving your communications. Ensure everyone on your list has the opportunity to opt out via an easily accessible ‘unsubscribe’ button or link, which should not be hidden. Segment the audience based on engagement level and mail those with lower engagement less frequently.
7. How can analytics be used to optimize email deliverability as well as performance of campaigns? Can you share any examples of how you have used data to drive better results for your clients?
My primary focus is on the concealed metrics of email deliverability within the ESP. Metrics like open rate, click rate, bounce rate (especially soft bounces), unsubscribe rate, and spam complaints rate. Also, I encourage everyone to connect the domain to Google Postmaster tools which provide basic deliverability metrics.
If the brand is looking to get in-depth insights into its email marketing campaign, using deliverability monitoring tools like Validity is highly recommended.
8. How do you stay up-to-date on the latest trends and best practices in email marketing and deliverability? What resources do you recommend for others who want to improve their knowledge in this area?
I believe that email marketers need to be aware of deliverability and its importance. They don’t need to be deliverability experts. I’m consulting clients on deliverability, so I’m always learning. Also, because of my weekly blog and podcast, I’m always learning about the topic of deliverability.
I stay up to date about email deliverability by reading comments in the deliverability channel on the Email Geeks Slack Community and attending events like the “Deliverability Summit” organized by EmailExpert. To improve my knowledge about email deliverability, I stay informed by reading the spamresource.com blog by Al Iverson, attending webinars conducted by Validity, participating in forums with other deliverability professionals, and chatting with my colleagues in the field.
Staying current on these industry trends and insights helps me get the best results for my clients.
9. With data privacy and security being a major concern these days, how do you see email deliverability evolving in the near future? What emerging trends or technologies do you see impacting email deliverability, and how can businesses stay ahead of the curve?
I think that the trend we see in recent years will impact email because we always think that email is no one’s land. That’s not true anymore. Google is huge in many countries (India, for example).
Last September, Apple introduced its Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) which has resulted in reduced accuracy of email open metrics. There are hints that Apple’s next move will be to eliminate the email clicks metric.
We trust you will derive actionable insights from the above to transform your email campaigns. Choosing the right Email Service Provider (ESP) is the first step to boosting engagement and conversion rates, and skyrocketing your ROI from email marketing. Feel free to get in touch with us to know of the latest innovations in email marketing and how you can use them to achieve outstanding results. Leverage our expertise and experience – we send over 20 billion emails a month on behalf of 6500+ businesses across 40 countries.