Address-Book Additions Boost Inbox Arrivals

Whenever we talk about improving e-mail deliverability, we usually cover the big issues: getting rid of spam elements, ISP whitelisting, permission, list hygiene, and so forth.

One simple tactic gets short shrift: getting into your subscribers’ address books or contact lists.

Sure, you put your add-to-address-book request in the top line of your e-mail message (which isn’t necessarily the best place to put it, but more on that later). But that’s not enough to get on your subscribers’ personal whitelists, which is what address books and contact lists really are. However, you can improve your chances of getting listed with just a few steps.

Why the Address Book Is Key

Whenever people add your e-mail sending address to their address books or contact lists, they’re telling their ISPs, “I want this person’s e-mail messages.” Being listed in some circumstances can even get your e-mail delivered to the inbox with images rendering correctly.

ISPs want to deliver only the e-mail their customers say they want to receive, so they check those personal whitelists when deciding whether to deliver, block, or direct to the spam folder your e-mail.

Five Steps to Optimize Address-Book Listings

The Email Experience Council’s new report, “Retail Email Subscription Benchmark Study,” suggests retailers are moving toward greater subscriber interaction: adding e-mail confirmation, cleaning up mailing lists, and integrating more channels, such as RSS feeds, blogs, and social networks.

Adding add-to-address-book requests and instructions should be a staple feature of your opt-in process, beginning on the subscription or thank-you pages and moving all the way through the welcome phase. Here are five steps to get you listed in subscribers’ address books:

  • Eliminate the do-not-reply address and notice. No matter how politely you phrase it or what good intentions you have about reducing the number of mailboxes you monitor, using a sending address like “” and telling people not to reply to your e-mail is just rude.

    People will ignore it, too, and hit “reply” to comment, complain, ask for help, or request to be unsubscribed. So monitor the mailbox associated with your sending address more closely. The other bonus is that e-mail replies sent to your sender address will prompt the user to add that address to her contact lists. (Caveat: Yahoo and some other clients ask users to confirm adding the address unless the user changes a setting to add addresses automatically.)

  • Post a request on your subscription or thank-you page. This will reduce the number of confirmation messages lost in spam filters when they hit your recipients’ inboxes without benefit of whitelisting. Waiting until the confirmation or welcome e-mail is too late. Post your request prominently, and don’t forget to tell subscribers to look for your welcome message that’s on the way. If you post whitelisting instructions for various clients at your site, link to that page.
  • Add requests and instructions to the confirmation and welcome e-mails. Your first request happens at opt-in, but your confirmation e-mail and welcome message — a message that’s separate from both confirmation and program e-mail — should also include this request.

    In addition, put the request in the top line of your welcome e-mail where it will catch your new reader’s eye. You probably do this already in your regular e-mail, but that’s where your value proposition or call to action belongs now. (See my column on snippets.

    If your mailing-list software allows it, keep the address-book request in the message top line for the first three or four regular e-mails you send to new subscribers. I usually drop placement in messaging after the welcome stream has completed and use that valuable above-the-fold real estate for other messaging.

  • Include the request in the administrative or footer section of your regular message template. You’ll have space for this when you get rid of your “do not reply” directive. You can put it somewhere else higher, too, but don’t sacrifice a prime spot for it.
  • Feature the request prominently in a separate e-mail if you change your program. This is a must if you switch e-mail service providers, even if your sending address doesn’t change, to avoid any problems during your IP warm-up phase (see “Keep the Heat Off That New IP Address“).

    Try to wake up your inactives with a message dedicated to administrative issues such as whitelisting, feedback addresses, or user surveys.

Do It Because Spammers Don’t

Take a minute and sift through the spam in your junk folder right now (the real spam, not just the misrouted e-mail you don’t redeem with the “not spam” button). How many of these e-mails ask you to add their sending address to your contact list or address book? Not many, if any, I’ll bet.

That should tell you something right there. Spammers don’t usually request address-book placement. So if you want to boost your legitimacy with your readers, ramp up your placement requests, then watch your inbox placement improve.

Until next time, keep on deliverin’!

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