SMC Sunset: Deliverability and Held and Unsubscribed Emails

Jul 21, 2017

If you are moving off of the NPR DS Salesforce Marketing Cloud onto a new Email Service Provider (ESP), it is important to ensure you are only importing active email addresses into your new solution to avoid serious deliverability issues.

To help with the transitions, we’ve outlined two key pitfalls, and actions you can take to avoid them.

In Email, Reputation is Everything

Email providers, like Gmail and Microsoft Outlook, have designed their systems to look for flags that help them automatically determine how reputable an email sender is. Tripping too many of their flags can relegate your email to secondary inboxes, like the “promotions folder”  in Gmail, or, in the worst cases, cause your email to be dumped into the spam folder or blocked altogether.

Bad list data frequently causes the most well-intentioned organizations to accidentally triggering spam warnings, and suffer the consequences.

Issues to be especially careful of:

  1. Sending to Bad Email Addresses. If an email provider notices that you’re sending to a large number of email addresses on their domain that no longer exist, this can be a huge red flag for spam filters.

    How to avoid:
    Make sure there is a process in place that will ensure you stop sending to email addresses that bounce. Many ESP programs will automatically unsubscribe these emails from your list, but caution is needed if you frequently upload lists pulled from your membership database to send member appeals to.

    If you do not have a direct connection between your ESP and your membership database, we strongly recommend regularly reviewing the emails that have bounced, and removing those emails from your database.

  2. Spam complaints from your subscribers. If several people on a single email domain flag your email as spam, you may be added to that provider’s blacklist, and your emails will be blocked from even reaching the recipients’ spam folders.

    How to avoid:
    Make sure your are respecting all unsubscribe requests. If a user has unsubscribed from one of your emails in the past, and suddenly starts receiving it again without warning, this will greatly increase the chances of being flagged.

    Most ESPs provide a mechanism for subscribers to indicate they no longer want to receive email, and will automatically stop sending to them. However, if you use your membership database to generate lists you may inadvertently start sending to individuals who have unsubscribed in the past if you start using a new ESP.

    Check with your database provider to see if there is a field available to mark certain contacts as “do not email” so that their email addresses will be left off any lists you generate from the system.

    If you do not have a direct connection between your ESP and your membership database, we strongly recommend instituting a process to regularly review the emails that have unsubscribed, and marking them as such in your database.

Held & Unsubscribed Emails in Salesforce Marketing Cloud

If an email bounces too many times, Salesforce Marketing Cloud will mark that address as “held” and no longer send to it, even if you upload it as part of a one-time list. This is why there may be a discrepancy between the number of email in the data extension you are sending to, and the actual number of emails the system reports actually sending to on a send.

All emails sent from Salesforce Marketing Cloud include an “unsubscribe” link at the bottom. If a user clicks on it, they are taken to a version of your profile page where they can confirm they want to stop receiving emails from your organization. If a user unsubscribes from all your emails, Salesforce Marketing Cloud will mark their address as “unsubscribed” and no longer send to it, even if you upload is as part of a one-time list.

Use the SubscriberListReport to see which emails in your account have been marked as held or unsubscribed. If you are moving to a new ESP account, we recommend filtering held & unsubscribed emails out of any lists you upload to your new account.

If you're interested in more information on Email Deliverability, Salesforce Marketing Cloud has more information available here.