by Adam Kościelak Aug 10, 2010

Do you know what is the most important thing an email marketer is looking for? Find out the answer in our short guide.

Do you need more than opens and clicks? For sure. Email marketers have to pay attention to many things like list management, creating templates, tailoring interesting offers, and much, much more. But what is the most important thing an email marketer is looking for? Engagement.

What is it?

Trends are constantly changing. Things that were popular in the past are replaced by new things that matter now. The same is true for email marketing. For a long time, marketers used a wider approach, basically sending out giant email campaigns that did not necessarily offer a lot of value to subscribers. Simply put, the goal was to gather as many contacts as possible, send a generic campaign to all of them, and hope for the best.

Some marketers may still value a higher volume of subscribers over engaged subscribers, but working with a more sophisticated approach is going to give marketers better results in the long run. Do not get me wrong, however, building and growing your list of contacts is important, but the key to getting your mail to the inbox is engagement. This could be the most important aspect of email marketing in the following years. In fact, some of the biggest ISPs (Internet Service Providers) are already using engagement filters for inbox placement.

What is Engagement? It describes a way to measure how the recipient is interacting with your mail. This includes many factors. Every inbox is an individual place with a unique owner – and mail that was placed in the Primary Tab of one user may end up in the Spam Folder for another address.

What ISP's measure

ISPs have access to a lot of data. According to a seminar held during the 2015 Email Evolution Conference, four of the biggest companies (Gmail, AOL, Comcast, and Yahoo) described 7 ways they measure engagement:

Positive :

  • Opening your mail – if a contact opens your mail it means that they are interested in at least looking at your mail, though other measurements weigh more heavily when looking at engagement.
  • Replying to mail – this is a sign of direct engagement – that is why it is so important to include a nongeneric Reply-To address.
  • Marking emails as “Not a Spam” - Sometimes legitimate mail is placed into the Spam folder and it is not much you can do about it. Selecting mail and clicking the “Not Spam” button will mark this mail as “wanted” and will help with delivery in the future. This includes moving mail from Junk Folder to your primary inbox.
  • Moving mail between folders (excluding Spam/Junk) – many mailbox providers divide their mail into tabs/folders. If a recipient is placing mail in a certain location it likely indicates how they want to treat mail from that sender.
  • Adding sender to address book – it works almost like whitelisting sender – from an inbox engagement perspective, it means that the recipient cares about mail from that sender.

Negative :

  • Placing mail in the Spam/Junk folder – this one is self-explanatory, if someone is marking your mail as a Spam it means that they do not wish to receive messages from you.
  • Deleting mail without opening it. When a contact is not interested in your mail and just deletes it without reading it, this makes a bit of a bad impression for mail filters.

There are more factors that might influence engagement, but the seven we listed have the greatest impact on the placement of your mail in the inbox. There are definitely a few steps you can take that will help you get and keep your contacts engaged. Setting up your sender domain, following good list management practices, and experimenting with the format of your mail will all contribute to your campaign successes.

Adam Kościelak

Adam Kościelak is an experienced writer and video content creator. Throughout 2021, he worked as Elastic Email's Content Specialist, expanding our content library.

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