Are you ready to become a serious email marketer? Here’s a brief glossary of ten email marketing terms to learn. Understanding these terms can demonstrate your skill in a meeting or a job interview and improve your email marketing results.

1. Deliverability 

Deliverability refers to the likelihood that an email will make it to the inbox as opposed to the spam folder—or, worse, nowhere at all. This is a really complex subject that’s often misunderstood. The truth is that it’s actually difficult for email marketers to know with certainty exactly where their emails will land. Sure, your email platform may show you a percentage of emails delivered, but that just means that the recipient’s internet service provider (ISP) indicated that the message was accepted. It’s impossible to distinguish whether it got to the inbox or went to a junk folder.

Deliverability is a tricky business. We’ve covered many components of being a good steward to your contacts on our blog, and following email marketing best practices will help ensure inbox placement.

2. DNS

The Domain Name Service (DNS) is a protocol that takes human-readable addresses (like https://www.example.com) and converts them into numeric IP addresses that computers understand (like 96.244.71.482).

3. SPF

SPF is the most basic email authentication protocol, allowing a domain owner to specify what mail servers they are using to send emails. So if a mail server is used that hasn’t been specified, the recipient’s ISP will regard the email as suspicious.

4. DKIM

DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) is a more complicated security protocol that uses a set of encrypted keys on the sender and recipient ends to ensure that emails are in fact from the stated source and that they haven’t been mucked around with while in transit.

5. DMARC

DMARC ensures that legitimate emails are authenticated against both DKIM and SPF standards and serves to block spam and other fraudulent email appearing to come from domains owned by the company.

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6. Dedicated IP

This is your very own IP address for sending emails. Having a dedicated IP is a must if you’re sending in high volume or are in certain industries that otherwise can appear spammy. I won’t get into the best practices for “warming up” a new dedicated IP because it’s beyond the scope of this article. But if you go that direction, I recommend that you do your research and pay close attention to developing a positive sender reputation from the start.

7. Shared IP

Probably the overwhelming majority of emails are sent from shared IPs, meaning that you are sending messages from the same IP address as multiple other companies. Incidentally, it also means you’re sharing the reputation of multiple companies, in a sense, though implementing the proper protocols can help mitigate any issues you run into here.

8. Whitelisting

Whitelisting is the simple process of adding an email address to your contact list, guaranteeing that you know who the sender is and indicating that their messages aren’t spam. Many companies ask recipients to take this step early on in the nurturing process so the company’s emails stay out of the spam folder.

9. Blacklisting

If you get blacklisted, your deliverability can drop significantly. It means that one or more authoritative ISPs have determined that you’re spamming folks and added your domain to a list. You can get un-blacklisted, but it takes work and patience to reassemble the broken pieces of your reputation. My advice is always to prevent problems in the first place by adhering to best practices.

There are other components of deliverability that can take you down an infinitely complex rabbit hole. Basically, just talk to your IT folks to make sure that all the things are set up properly.

10. Hard Bounce

A hard bounce happens when an email is returned to the sender permanently. It usually occurs because the recipient is unknown, the domain name is incorrect, or the recipient isn’t known. Typos are a common cause of bounces. Sometimes, users will intentionally provide the wrong email to obtain a downloadable and avoid opting into an email list.

Pay attention to how many hard bounces you’re getting when you send out emails. You want to delete invalid email addresses if the bounces get too high. If you don’t delete them in a timely fashion, your deliverability rates drop, and you could get flagged as spam by email providers.

Parting Thoughts

Email marketing can seem a little confusing. Just keep in mind that the main point is that you’re sending a message digitally to someone. Understanding email marketing terminology will help get more people to read your message and respond.

Never underestimate email marketing since it can be one of the highest ROI activities in your toolkit. Good luck!

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