From-Address Dos and Don’ts for your email newsletter

One area of email marketing which is often not talked about is your ‘From-Address’. Now an email marketer can use their From-Address for good (more conversions and results from your newsletter) and for bad (the opposite or at least make your mail look quite strange to the recipient). There are actually quite some things to say about the From-Address So what are the DOs and Don’ts? 

From-Address

Your From-Address (the email address) is rarely directly seen by the recipient, normally because it is hidden by the inbox’s interface. So we see the friendly from name instead of the email address. However, if they ever reply or add you to their address book, they will obviously have to see it.

Whilst it is not as popular to ask to be added to address book anymore, it still helps and a reply tends to get you added for free. Replies are good deliverability juice, because it’s a conversation which is the original purpose of email.

Branding via your From Address

When you send an email, the domain part of the email, the @domain.com is always branded. Be it the free provider you choose for your personal emails, your Email marketing software or your work’s domain. When you send marketing emails, from your brand, of course it is expected to be from that brand’s domain!

There are 3 main angles to consider:
1. Trust,
2. Sender reputation,
3. Relevance & rapport.

1. Trust and your from Address.

phishing email marketingThis is more about the domain than the full email address.

Let’s get phishing out of the way: I’ll presume you all know what phishing is…

There are two ways a spammer might impersonate your brand:
1. Spoof your domain into the email headers, pretending it is sending from your domain or
2. use a domain that looks really close to it.

Most inboxes are pretty good at spotting spoofs nowadays, because they won’t pass the authentication, especially DKIM. But if they buy a domain that looks like yours but is slightly different they can make it pass all of the authentication.

As a brand you should be telling people how to validate your emails with their eyes where possible, which domain it will come from, that you’ll never ask for certain details etc. like all the banks do.

So when you choose the domain to send your emails from:

Don’t buy a new domain and name it something close, eg: example-email.com; unless you absolutely cannot avoid it. Use your actual web-domain eg:example.com; or make a dedicated sub-domain for all of your marketing eg: emails.example.com;

This way any recipient who wants to check you out, will be able to get your website out of the email address and pop it into a browser to get a page you control.

Also, with DKIM you can easily delegate authority to infinite trusted parties to send from your domain which you can cancel at your leisure with no involvement from them.

And of course you can set-up DMARC to help catch spoofers.

2.Sender Reputation – deliverability.

Your Domain:

Sender Reputation is fairly centralised nowadays, the biggest providers have their own reputation measurement and there are a fair few dedicated services which smaller providers plug into. Long gone are the days when each mailserver has a generic set of rules, a few lists of blacklisted IPs to refer to and some bayesian hashes from people hitting spam.

Sender reputation is still generally your domain plus the IP(s) you send from, but is a bit more complex in detail. It is also fairly agile and is easier to damage a sender reputation than to repair per provider.

Reputation engines, like a credit score, like to be able to identify you. The harder it is and more more hazy you appear to them, the less trust you’ll get and less tolerance you’ll get with content, volumes and sending speeds.

You want your domain to be carried around through all of your emails. If you change ESPs and consequently IPs, your domain will keep you going as the reputation adjusts and rebuilds the equilibrium.

The only time you might consider using a different domain, is if for some reason you based your brand around a .info domain. Which got used for a hell of a lot of poor permission marketing from the day of its birth and pretty much got blacklisted immediately. It’s probably not like that anymore but I certainly wouldn’t risk it.

Email address prefix:

Reputation engines can tell the difference between prefixes and subdomains.
Over the years some prefixes have been abused by poor permission & spam (if there’s a difference), so even though reputation engines are fairly clever, some prefixes ‘feel’ safer than others.

  • For example offers@ and a lot of dailydeal / financial words were hammered early on in the dailydeal bubble and still feels too risky.
  • Avoid sending marketing from any of the generic role accounts you might set-up in your organisation to receive emails and communicate with departments, eg: sales@, marketing@, admin@, it@, customerservice@, support@, feedback@, etc. etc.
  • These addresses will likely receive the most spam, so will often be the most likely to be accused of sending it when mailing high volumes.
  • Avoid choosing something which doesn’t make sense, like an odd combination of letters and numbers, it’ll look like a bot.
  • Don’t replace the odd letter with a number, it’ll look like spam, eg: r0lex; it’s a not a biggy but add an air of suspicion you could do without.
  • If you are sending from a sub-domain keep it consistent across the brand marketing to make it as easy as possible for reputation engines to identify you.
  • There are exceptions for specifically separate parts of the brand or sub-brands, especially for large brands or a brand trying to appear as such, where consumers might identify more with the sub-brand than the parent.
  • Also the odd special novel campaign, where a brand might be looking to build a new tribe or something, might pin it around a dedicated sub-domain named after the buzz word in use.
  • Make the email address relative to its purpose. If you are sending transaction receipts, name them that way, reputation engines can read and often give them an easier ride than marketing ones – of course if you abuse it and send marketing from transactional addresses, they’ll crucify you.

Depending on your volumes and your programme’s complexity and the risk of complaints, you have to decide how much to mix it up.

If you have too many different addresses at low volume, reputation engines will not like the variation and you are better off keeping your marketing under one address, giving yourself the option to expand it over time.

If you already are a high volume sender and it’s all going out under one address, you may find some differentiation is healthy. If any stream is a higher risk of complaint, hopefully you’ll already know and be doing something for that. Separating it’s prefix will help other streams avoid it a little, whilst making that stream suffer a little more. If something is more dangerous, you may even have a separate IP or maybe you should not be doing it all!

3. Relevance & rapport

This is the main bit and probably what you came here for…

Don’t use no-reply

It’s only really tolerated on emails where replying is dangerous, in that the information in the email, should not be shared, where by replying you would send it back below your reply. Eg: password and authentication, transaction receipts etc. etc. even then, feel free to be a bit friendly with it: your-receipt-dontreply@, passwordreminder-dontreply@.

Use the relevant word that is relative to the reason your emailed them and/or the reason they signed up.

It can even be different per email stream, category preference or even automation programme. Eg:

  • welcome@ – they signup, they are prospect, they’ll get 2-5 emails.
  • welcomeaboard@ – they’ve joined a community they’re getting inducted through an email programme.
  • thanks@ – they’ve purchased something, they’ll get 1-3 emails, maybe asking for feedback.
  • updates@ – a regular weekly/monthly email keeping them up to date about your brand’s story
  • yours@ – personalised with content you or your recommendation platform is confident will them.
  • tellusmore@ / yourvoice@ quarterly email asking for feedback / nps survey etc.

But don’t have too many prefixes for your volumes. The important thing is to be relevant and inviting.

If your lifecycle emailing is all tied down into one giant automation or a few intertwining journeys pinging out at relevant times, with content relevant to their rfm status, last purchase, calendar events, dynamic personalised content, with real or pretend AI behind it, you’re probably best sticking with the one, otherwise it is just another thing to deal with.

So even if you just use updates@emails.example.com for everything, you’re onto a good start.

Litmus has a tidy one for most of their emails:

The peeps at Action Rocket have been nice and literal for the ever popular email weekly:

Known for great word choice and not short on self confidence, Phrasee have gone descriptive too

A person looking at an email address does not expect to have to solve a puzzle, they do not expect to be dictated to or instructed or have any feeling other than what they expected and maybe a bit of love.

From Address Dos and don’ts

Do

  • Use your website’s domain or a sub-domain of it, eg: coms. emails. etc.
    Set-up dkim at least. But try and set-up dmarc too.
    + with a subdomain, your sending solution/ESP may let you plug it in deeper: for link tracking, reply handling and/or even a branded envelope domain with spf.
  • Make the sub-domain relevant and obvious to be about communication.
  • Use an inviting prefix to avoid alienating recipients and try to keep it in context, eg: updates, welcome, alerts, thanks, hello.
  • Feel free to be novel eg: customerlove, pleasereply, allaboard, tellusmore, yourvoice
  • Consider using some different prefixes if you have a few different streams and higher volumes eg: over 200k per week.

Don’ts

  • Don’t send from commonly spammed prefixes like offers or any generic role account prefixes.
  • Don’t make a new domain that looks like yours if you can avoid it – just use yours or a sub-domain, it is not difficult. Your brand and those in charge of the domain(s) should want to keep it all together. Your DPO will be on your side.
  • Don’t use no-reply if you can avoid it.
  • Don’t use loads of prefixes, especially if your volumes are low, eg: less than 200k per week.

To conclude, this article shows that what might seem like a small detail like the From-Address can even make a difference and is something to care about.

Andy Thorpe

Andy, captaininbox on twitter, is a seasoned deliverabilitist & email marketition and is still the resident email whisperer at Pure360.