Why Engagement Segmentation is Critical To Your Email Deliverability

email engagement segmentation

Engagement vs. Basic Segmentation

If you are reading this, then you should know the very basics of email marketing segmentation. Basic rules of segmentation include excluding unsubscribes, soft bounces, hard bounces, and sending different messages to your leads vs your clients. 

But many marketers miss the mark when it comes to engagement segmentation. Engagement segmentation is a proven methodology that helps marketers send more emails to their subscribers without hurting their overall email list. But it does more than just help you send more campaigns. It can improve or fix your deliverability issues by increasing your sender score, domain reputation, and IP health.

Engagement segmentation is really quite simple. It’s simply creating new segments based on how long it has been since a user engaged (opened or clicked) with your emails. This type of segmentation hack is a great way to increase your overall email metrics and have more emails land in the inbox and not the spam folder.

How You Are Damaging Your Email Deliverability

Email Deliverability

One of the worst things you can do as an email marketer is to send to your entire list. Read that again. Not everyone who has subscribed should be getting every email you send. 

Sending to your entire list can and will damage your overall deliverability causing your emails to end up in the spam folder or worse, undeliverable by the Inbox Service Provider. 

You may be thinking, “But isn’t it better to send to more people so that I can get more eyeballs on my campaign and drive revenue?”

Get ready for this hard truth: The majority of your list may no longer be interested in your emails.

Think about it. Maybe… just maybe.. someone signed up just to get your free ebook or other lead magnet and had no intentions of ever buying from you. Or, maybe they put in a fake email address just to watch your free video promised on the next page. Or, maybe someone got a new email address and doesn’t even check their old inbox anymore. There are tons of similar situations I’m sure you can think of.

Contrary to popular belief, not everyone wants to read your emails. (Shocking! We know.) People’s interests change. People may never have any intention of buying from you. Or they bought from one of your competitors. People don’t spend all their free time reading every single email in their inbox. And yes, people die. In short, your emails are not for everyone.

These email addresses should be considered your engaged list.

Stop Emailing the Unengaged

Continuing to email your unengaged subscribers is damaging your deliverability. Sending them more and more emails may not help them take a sudden interest again — regardless of how great your email copy or offer is. This is especially true if they aren’t even checking their inbox. Your unengaged list should be comprised of a mix of people no longer interested in your sends (ie: have stopped opening or clicking on your recent sends), soft and hard bounces, and dormant email addresses. Dormant email addresses are created when an email address is made inactive. And, you definitely don’t want to send to these.

Welcome to Spam Traps. 

Dormant email addresses can become Spam Traps monitored by Inbox Service Providers (ISPs). Examples of Inbox Service Providers include Google (Gmail), Yahoo, and Outlook.com.

The ISPs play a critical role in determining if your campaigns get delivered and where they get delivered. If the ISP sees that you are continuing to send to dormant email addresses then you will be penalized. It’s a red flag that says you are not cleaning your list, following standard best practices, and of course, not segmenting your audience.

If you take anything from this article, it’s this. Please clean your list at the very least removing unengaged email addresses. 

So you may be thinking….what else do Inbox Service Providers look for when it comes to delivering emails? 

How Inbox Service Providers Like Google and Yahoo Deliver Email 

Like we mentioned earlier, it’s the ISPs that will determine if your email will be delivered to the inbox or spam folder. In fact, they are doing a lot more than just scanning your content for spammy words (ie: get rich fast, make money now).

They are looking at the following to determine how and when to send emails:

  • IP Health
  • Domain Reputation
  • Sender Score
  • Engagement Patterns

Let’s dive into engagement patterns – how often your subscriber is opening and or clicking your emails.

What is Engagement Segmentation?

Engagement segmentation is a marketing strategy that allows you to send more emails to only your subscribers who are engaging with your content. Another way to think about is the infamous 80/20 rule.

Ever hear of the 80/20 rule?

Well, it applies to email marketing. 

What is Engagement Segmentation

Only 20% of your entire email list will drive the vast majority of your opens, clicks, and revenue. The 20% in this case is your engaged list(s).  There’s a good chance about 80% of your list is not driving your overall metrics.

For example, let’s say you created two segments. The first segment consists of brand new or engage leads within the last 30 days. The second segment consists of people who have engaged more than 30 days. You send each segment the very same email with the same subject line.

The results will be drastically different. Your engaged list may see a 20% open rate while your unengaged list only gets a 3% open rate.

The unengaged segment of your list is dragging down ALL of your metrics. But it gets worse. The unengaged is giving you a bad score with Gmail (and the other ISPs) and making you look like a SPAMMER.

It’s not worth the risk to send to more people (the unengaged) list in hope of generating just a few more opens and clicks.

By implementing engagement segmentation into your overall strategy, you will increase your reputation score with Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook.com, etc. A higher score can help you avoid the filters that determine whether your campaign is spam or not.

Engagement segmentation will help you achieve better inboxing, better deliverability, higher domain reputation score, and higher sender score. 

If you still don’t believe us, test this methodology by sending the same email campaign to multiple segments and see how different the results are for each group. But don’t be shocked when we say we told you so. 

How to Create Engagement-Based Segments 

How to Create Engagement-Based Email Segments

An easy way to think about your email list is to divide subscribers into buckets. Each bucket should have its own segmentation rules based on how often they are engaging with email campaigns. 

For example, you can have buckets based on last open or click data within 14 days, 30 days, 45 days, or 60 days. 

Another example is to create buckets based on lead creation date and how often they are interacting with your email campaigns. 

Create rules for each bucket based on the last open or click date

Most email platforms like MailChimp, Active Campaign, and Salesforce Marketing Cloud, have settings where you can easily create rules for each bucket based on the last open or click date. Once you save your segment criteria, it will automatically pull in the right contacts for you when it’s time to schedule your send.

Once you have figured out your buckets, it’s time to create a weekly schedule. Your email schedule should include a set number of email campaigns they will receive based on email type: editorial/content and sales/promo related. 

Higher engagement patterns allow you to send daily emails – if that’s your goal. You can still send multiple times a week to your lower engagement segments. And when you do, you’ll see your subscribers move from the less engaged segments up to your recently engaged segment.

The majority of your sends will be to your most engaged people so you will have great open/click rates for the vast majority of what you send. You will notice that by sending way fewer campaigns to your less engaged lists that those poor metrics will get averaged in with the high engagement sends and your overall reputation stays high. This is where the magic happens and you’ll start sending higher email open rates, higher click rates, and potentially higher revenue. 

This is another tip that scares most marketers. You can send more than 1 email/day to your engaged lists.
Take Gmail for example. Gmail doesn’t really care how often you send to people as long as your engagement rates are high and your spam complaints are within their normal thresholds. They are just looking to see if people are engaging with your email campaigns. Think of newspapers that are sending breaking news multiple times per day, or a deal website emailing that an out-of-stock product just got released. If their audience is opening and engaging with their campaigns, they still look golden to the ISPs.

Check out this example weekly schedule with the buckets described above:

Benefits of Engagement Segmentation

Honestly, there are so many benefits of engagement segmentation. For one, you are targeting a list of individuals who want to hear from you. Take a look at list #10 above. This segment gets two emails per day, one promotional and one editorial every single day of the week – without hurting deliverability. 

Another benefit (and probably the most beneficial) is that ISPs will reward you. Your sender score will greatly increase and this is what determines if your email will be delivered or not. The higher the score, the better deliverability. The lower the score, the higher chances of it going to spam. 

Your sender score impacts every single email campaign you send which is why it is so important to implement engagement segmentation into your overall email strategy. Not to say this again, but it doesn’t do any good to continue to send emails to people who are no longer engaging with your sends.

Want to improve your sender score?

Improving your sender score is not as complicated as you may think. You just need to increase your open and click rates. Writing great email copy and testing out subject lines is one way to do this, but there’s another option too. Your main goal should be to get the open. Your secondary goal should be to get them to click.

Some list owners are using a stealth tool from Inbox Mailers to increase their overall metrics by 2-3x. This tool allows you to see when your subscribers are in their inbox and send them an email at that precise time. And when you do, you can get open rates double, even triple to what you are used to seeing. This will cause the engagement rates of your entire email program to look incredible. You should see an uptick in your sender score and overall deliverability.

One of the biggest benefits is that as you take in new leads, the Inbox Service Providers will trust that you are not a spammer and got the opt-in legitimately and deliver your email immediately. 

The Drawbacks of Engagement Segmentation

Is there really a drawback to engagement segmentation? The only real drawback is not emailing your entire list. If you paid for leads, then it may feel like you are throwing money away by not sending them daily or weekly emails. But the hard truth to accept is if that they aren’t opening or clicking your emails, then they are doing more harm than good. Just remember the 80/20 rule.

There are other ways you can target your unengaged list (or leads. One way is by setting up targeted workflows with messaging that resonates where they are at in the customer journey. You can also set up workflows that lets your unengaged list know you will be no longer emailing them in the future unless they click yes they want to stay on the list. (But that’s for another article.)

How to Increase Your Email Open Rates By 2-3x

Up until now, if you wanted to increase your open rates, you’d have to split test different subject lines and send times like morning, lunch, or night. While these methods still work, there’s a shortcut you can to increase open rates and it’s based on human behavior. We’ve identified that the best time to send an email is when someone is actively in their inbox.

Did you know that on average, someone checks their inbox 15-20 times a day? When they are in their inbox is when you should be sending your triggered campaign to increase your likelihood of getting the open.

When they “check” their inbox, they are skimming through subject lines and mass deleting all the ones they don’t want to read, leaving only the emails in their inbox that piqued their interest. If your email makes it to this point, the chances of being opened are slightly increased.

Let’s say they do open your email (yay!), you can then trigger another email to be sent immediately (while they are still in their inbox) using a tool like Inbox Mailers. This triggered email usually has an open rate between 50-60% based on our case studies. 

Now you have at least two opens from that subscriber! Imagine this scenario happening for hundreds, thousands of subscribers. Your engaged segment and sender score will both drastically increase. ← This is what you need for a successful email marketing program. 

Send Perfectly Time-Triggered Emails with Inbox Mailers 

When you pair engagement segmentation with a tool like Inbox Mailers, your email marketing metrics will be amplified.

If you are interested in sending perfectly timed emails when someone is in their inbox, then sign up for Inbox Mailers. Starting at $99/month, you can start generating inbox open triggers that will seamlessly integrate with your current email platform.

Inbox Mailers is a great solution for improving your email deliverability, increasing your overall engagement metrics, and generating more revenue for your business. Sign up here or schedule a free demo with a product specialist.

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John Gardner

John Gardner

John Gardner is an expert email marketer and co-founder of Inbox Mailers. He specializes in email segmentation and improving overall deliverability, helping top brands and businesses optimize their email marketing strategy.