Your Checklist for Email Deliverability This Holiday Season, 2022 Edition

9 holiday season email deliverability checklists

Take a deep breath; another holiday season is making its debut. ESPs, marketers, and the family of email marketing are preparing for the busiest quarter of the year. Every marketer’s goal for the next two months is to maximize their profits through email marketing. Maintaining good email deliverability is crucial for doing this. To that end, we’ve compiled a list of tried and proven best practices for boosting email engagement to maximize revenue and optimize deliverability. Brace yourself and Get Ready NOW!

The Blueshift Deliverability team works directly with the sender to set up a strong email infrastructure.


1. Ensure Your List Is Clean And Validated

Now is the time to clean and validate your database before you send your holiday content. To maintain the positive sender reputations at ISPs, make sure your list is free of spam-traps, hard bounces, and inactive addresses. Here’s a quick checklist: 

  • Implement a double opt-in acquisition process to filter out the invalid addresses.
  • Use CAPTCHA for sign-up forms to prevent bot addresses entering your list.
  • Avoid any third-party or rental lists. Target only the users who have given consent.
  • Have strong sunset policies for non-engaging users. This helps in mitigating recycled traps.

Spamhaus, a top anti-spam organization, has recently tightened its filtering techniques and started blocking the senders more aggressively whose mailing practices are poor and not up to the mark. If an IP/domain is listed in Spamhaus, ~70% of the sending volume will be blocked by ISPs from reaching out to the inboxes. Since June, there has been a spate of Spamhaus Informational Listings to alert the senders on improving their sending practices before the real block. If you do not want to be a part of Spamhaus blocklist and maintain good inbox placement, make sure your mailing list is always clean.


2. Segment Your Audience

You want to provide your customers with valuable content. Segmentation will allow you to break down your target audience into meaningful categories. In the past, marketers were accustomed to segment the openers as active users. But now, with Apple’s IOS 15 update, it might become a bit difficult to identify the real openers accurately. However, you can segment your list based on the user’s click activity, signup dates, location, interests, or preferences and target them with relevant content accordingly to boost user engagement, which in turn strengthens the overall inbox placement at ISPs.


3. Plan Your Campaigns Ahead of Time

Plan, prepare, and implement. Plan your campaign calendar ahead of time. Analyze which campaigns worked out well in the past and prepare the send schedule accordingly. Sending to the most active audience will keep up your deliverability. 

But if you are going to touch your non-engaging base, prepare a re-engagement strategy beforehand. To avoid any negative impact on deliverability, deploy the winback emails to not more than 10% of the daily volume and with a gap of one to two hours after the campaign to active users. Suppress those users who are not responding to winback series (i.e. based on click activity because of Apple’s MPP). Monitor the performance closely and change the plan if you see any issues.


4. Avoid Email Warm Ups During This Time

Warming up a new IP or domain during the holiday season is not an ideal strategy and does not benefit from proving your identity with the major ISPs. You should already have an identity established with ISPs and your customers BEFORE the holiday season. 

In the next two months, your customers’ mailboxes will be flooded with lots of emails and for them to recognize you easily, it’s better to use the same sending domain, from address and display name through which your customers are used to receive the emails. Any sudden changes during the busiest time of the year might affect the user engagement and cause deliverability issues.  If you’re looking to migrate ESPs or make any changes, the best time for success would be during Q1 and Q3.  


5. Review Sending Frequency and Volume

ISPs look out for consistent mailing behavior from the senders and if it is not maintained, they may block all the emails. Especially at Microsoft, it will be challenging to get the mitigation if the activity is inconsistent. So, avoid any sudden spikes. If you want to increase the volume, inform your ESP in advance and work with them to prepare a strategy for gradually ramping up the volume on your existing IPs/domains without compromising the deliverability. Also, increasing the frequency may lead to high user complaints. So, inform your customers about the offers or deals from before instead of spiking up the frequency on special days. 


6. Build Effective Content to Grab Your User’s Attention

Content plays a very important role in grabbing your user’s attention. Your customers are likely to receive a ton of emails during the holidays and if you want to stand out, your email should be relevant, attractive, and personalized. Countdown timers, coupon codes, and effective CTAs help in catching the eye of the users and boosts up the conversion rates.

For new subscribers, send a welcome email to set the expectations about your brand or services and implement a preference center to understand your customers interests. Build mobile optimized creatives and avoid any spam words, shortened/broken URLs. Ensure you are following all the content best practices to bypass the ISP spam filters and be compliant with anti-spam policies like CANSPAM, GDPR, CASL, and others. 


7. Test Content Thoroughly

Once you create the email template, the next step is to test. Make sure to test your content thoroughly before the live send. Double check if the images and URLs are redirecting to correct websites or not. Verify that your email is rendering properly without any issues. Recently, Blueshift has partnered with Email On Acid to help in testing your content and previewing the emails across multiple devices and ISPs. So now, you can run inbox preview tests within Blueshift platform itself to ensure that your emails are getting displayed as intended. Learn more about free inbox preview tests. 

Also A/B testing helps in improving the user engagement. You can do A/B tests on subject lines, preheader text, creatives etc. in the Blueshift platform to optimize the performance. Analyze the test results to understand what worked best for your customers and create the future campaigns accordingly.


8. Review The Technical Settings

Are all of your technical settings set up and ready to go? The last thing you want is for your settings to be misconfigured and in disarray. The top four you will want to check are SPF, DKIM, DMARC, and TLS encryption. 

  • SPF records are permission slips for IPs to send on behalf of your subdomain 
  • DKIM records enable encryption to keep email content secure 
  • DMARC records let receiving mail servers know how to handle an email that fails or has misaligned SPF or DKIM
  • TLS encryption securely transmits communication over an encrypted channel 


9. Monitor Performance Metrics

Be sure to regularly monitor performance metrics and postmaster data because they are the best indicators of what your customer wants from you and how you are being categorized at ISPs. Continuous spam complaints, unsubscribes and bounces will damage your reputations at ISPs, so always make sure that you keep these metrics below the thresholds.

If you notice any issues, then immediately make changes to your sending practices and target relevant mails to active audiences. Also, you can reach out to ISPs and raise a support request. But during the holiday season, ISPs will also be overwhelmed with numerous tickets and so they may not be able to respond as usual. So, it’s better to prevent any deliverability issues from happening by following all the above mentioned best practices and to make the most out of the holiday season.


As we wrap up 2022, we hope these end of year holiday tips are useful. We provide additional deliverability services so contact your Blueshift Customer Success Manager for more information.