The Deliverability Dig: Using Archeological Methods to Analyze Email Data

 In Best Practices, Demand Generation, Demand Generation Best Practices, Email Marketing, Marketing Automation

Email marketing continues to be one of the most used B2B lead nurturing channels. However, email is only effective in building brand awareness and driving conversion if your email makes it to the recipient’s inbox. If you’re experiencing deliverability issues across your email campaigns or are considering transitioning to a dedicated IP, it’s time for a “deliverability dig.”

When archeologists arrive on a dig site, they don’t haphazardly dig for treasure. They have a meticulous system and methodology for digging, uncovering, identifying, and processing archeological remains. Much like an archeologist on a dig site, using an efficient methodology to uncover and analyze your deliverability more holistically is key to developing insights that will enable marketers to move from a reactive stance to a proactive approach.

To help your email marketing efforts pack a punch in the inbox, we put together 3 tactics inspired by basic archeological methods that we use with clients to do your own deliverability dig:

1. Survey the Land

Much like your Marketo instance needing regular checkups, your email deliverability needs them too. Look at the metrics for each of the following on a quarterly basis and keep track of those 3-month checkups to see your deliverability progress over time.

Like an archeologist first arriving on a dig site, use your eyes! Take advantage of Email Insights instead of standard email reports in Marketing Activities and Analytics or Revenue Explorer reports to survey the land. You’ll be able to see the true correlation between engagement and delivery metrics over time with some graphs to boot (instead of aggregate data). Some metrics to peruse:

  • Volume of emails sent
  • Emails Delivered
  • Bounce Rate
  • Hard Bounce Rate
  • Open Rate
  • Click to Open Rate

These metrics will give you a rundown of your current email deliverability. Questions will start to form and red flags can be raised, for example:

  • Are email sends consistent or do you have big spikes?
  • Are there any surges in bounce rates? If so, which campaigns produced those surges?
  • Are my open rates as expected, or are they super low?

You might end up with something pretty handy that looks like this:

Much better than sifting through those standard reports.

2. Lay down a dig grid

We’ve often seen clients try to dig deeper into bounces by looking at Email Bounce Reasons and Email Suspended Reasons. The truth of the matter is, these fields aren’t going to help you much at all because there’s no standardization to be found in these messages. It’s akin to going on a treasure hunt without a map.

Instead, lay down a basic grid before you dig: pull smart lists for Bounce Categories and create your “dig grid” using Bounce Categories. When assembled, you might churn out something that looks like this:

Again, use your eyes. Highlight in red where you see big increases from last quarter, and call out in green where there has been some major positive improvement.

Like an archeologist does, use tools to turn over the soil. When looking at these lists, your best tool is a smart list view with the below key fields to understand where records are coming from, how long they’ve been bouncing around in your database, and if there are any technical issues you might need to resolve (for example, soft, technical or undetermined bounces might gesture to SPF and DKIM setup in your instance):

  • Created
  • SFDC Created Date
  • Acquisition Date
  • Acquisition Program Name
  • Registration Source Type
  • Registration Source Info
  • Email
  • Company
  • Email Invalid
  • Is Email Bounced
  • Email Bounced Date
  • Email Bounced Reason
  • Email Suspended At
  • Email Suspended Cause

3. Analyze your artifacts

Using your dig grid you’ll find some “artifacts” that can be further analyzed – in this case, email addresses. Use your bounce data to evaluate these records. Do the following:

  1. Create a People Performance report in Analytics.
  2. In the smart list, add Email Bounced and Email Bounced Soft filters with the smart list logic “any.”
  3. Set the Person Created At date to “All Time”
  4. Group people by “website” to see the domains associated with your records and look at your top “offending” websites.

Sidenote: Marketo will populate the Website field when a record fills out a form. For leads created via list import and your CRM, this is not the case, so not all records in your database will have the Website field populated. However, there is a workaround that your CRM admin can do in Salesforce to populate the website field upon record creation. 

Alternatively, if your organization allows it, you can export the file with your trusty “Deliverability” view and create a pivot table with just the email domains. In your analysis, ask:

  • Are they personal email address domains? Maybe they’re consistently misspelled and a system can be put in place to correct them.
  • Is there a huge number of bounced email addresses for domains belonging to a specific organization? Perhaps you’ve been blocked and need to be whitelisted to send emails or your sending domains aren’t properly authenticated.
  • Do these emails belong to real people? Maybe the emails are “role” addresses (e.g. info@website.com, support@website.com, etc.) or temporary emails. Consider how your organization should handle these.

Pro tip: You can also group people by Registration Source Type, Acquisition Program, and Created Date to get a better understanding of the sources of bounced records.

True story: One of our clients was emailing hundreds of thousands of temporary email addresses with gobbledygook syntax and absolutely zero engagement, unbeknownst to them. Using these methods, we quickly uncovered the issue and found that this majorly dragged down deliverability. Either plug the hole or blacklist ‘em!

Ready to put on your Indiana Jones hat?

As an integrated Revenue Marketing Consultancy, we take a holistic approach, providing innovative strategy advisory to drive pipeline and revenue results fast. If you have any questions about auditing your tech stack, or if you just want to chat marketing technology, reach out to us and I would be happy to help!

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