Deliver Emails To The Hotmail Inbox: The Complete Guide (2021)

For more than a decade, successfully delivering emails to the Hotmail Inbox has been a constant struggle for both email marketers and designers.

All that time and energy invested to create stunning email marketing campaigns often ends up wasted, as the emails are doomed not to reach the subscribers’ inboxes.

hotmail inbox

The problem lies in Microsoft becoming stricter in its efforts to protect its users from spam. The company is using two filters, Exchange Online Protection and SmartScreen, which test every email going through the system.

If your company relies on emails getting delivered or you have an eCommerce business (B2C lists often have large percentages of Hotmail users), the way Microsoft treats your emails can have a large impact on the revenue you make from email.

Below you’ll find 7 essential steps you need to follow to increase deliverability to the Hotmail inbox and ensure a smooth experience for your subscribers!

1. Authenticate Your Emails

Email authentication is one of the first steps you need to take if you want to achieve great email delivery rates. Simply put, it’s a technological verification of the origin of an email message and it serves as a way to tackle the challenge of spam.

By authenticating your emails you can establish a positive reputation and earn ISP’s trust in your brand, which means higher chances of your emails getting delivered. Email authentication is also a good way to protect yourself against spoofing.

There are three major email authentication protocols you can set up:

  • SPF (Sender Policy Framework): an email validation system used to verify the sender’s IP address to prevent spam. By adding your designated IP addresses to your website’s DNS, servers know you are the owner of the domain and therefore authorized to send messages.
  • DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail): it verifies that the email message is owned by a particular organization. Think of it as a second e-signature. However, DKIM cannot guarantee the deliverability of your emails by itself. It works together with SPF, so be sure to set up both of them.
  • DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance): it’s a protocol that builds upon SPF and DKIM to add an additional layer for authentication. Essentially, it shows the receiving server how to handle emails that fail SPF and DKIM validation.

2. Carefully Set Up Your Subscription Process

Implementing a double opt-in subscription process is of the utmost importance in order to maintain your sender reputation and get emails delivered. What double opt-in does is ensure that your email subscribers are indeed interested in receiving your content and they want to be part of your list.

This way you get a more engaged audience and subscribers are much more likely to open your emails and interact with them.

Moreover, this email best practice helps you retain a healthy list. Provided you haven’t bought an email list, keeping hard bounces to a minimum means that your sender reputation remains intact.

The fewer emails you try to send to non-deliverable email addresses, the less likely it is that you will be considered a spammer.

3. Ask Subscribers To Whitelist You As A Sender

You can send a targeted email to your Hotmail/Outlook subscribers and ask them to whitelist you as a sender.

You can send this for example “Please follow this simple procedure to keep receiving our emails to your Inbox” where you outline the following process:

  • Check your Junk Email folder: If an email from our brand is in this folder, click “Show content” to view the body of the email. Click “Mark as safe”. We will now be added to your list of Safe senders.
  • Manually Add to Safe Senders and Domains: On the upper right corner of your Hotmail/Outlook screen click on the “Settings” button (gear icon). A side panel will appear and you need to click “view all Outlook settings.” Then in “Mail”, find the “Junk email” tab, and then under “Safe senders and Domains” you can click on Add and enter our email address.

This is very important since Microsoft will bypass its own filter and emails from those senders will never be treated as junk email, no matter the content of the message.

4. Regulate The Frequency Of Your Emails

If you bombard your email list with emails, subscribers can easily become overwhelmed and annoyed, which leads to either disengagement, or a high level of unsubscribes, and ultimately spam complaints.

On the other hand, if the frequency is too low, that may impact your ability to stand out from the competition and stay on “top of mind.” Therefore, you need to monitor the open rates to establish the “ideal number” of campaigns you should send.

You should aim to test the impact that your sending frequency has, regarding the volume of unsubscribes, complaints, and engagement metrics (i.e., opens, clicks, and conversions mostly). For a detailed guide on the best day and time to send an email, check out here.

Emailing your audience on specific days and times establishes a sense of familiarity as well as expectation. So, consistency is key.

Another effective practice is to provide subscribers with the option to choose the content and frequency of the messages they receive, either on sign up, or right before they choose to finally unsubscribe.

Pro tip: If you want to start sending emails from a dedicated IP, it’s vital to have a good IP warm-up plan. This means gradually increasing the volume of emails you send and targeting your most engaged subscribers to build trust with ISPs like Hotmail.

5. Make Unsubscribing Easy

Hotmail can be said to be particularly picky when it comes to delivering emails that do not meet its unsubscribing “criteria.”

So, make sure you include a list-unsubscribe email header in your messages, otherwise, they will most probably end up in the spam folder. And this is also true even if you have included an unsubscribe link at the bottom of your email (which is the typical place).

But you also need to ensure that the unsubscribe process is effortless for people who no longer want to receive your emails. You don’t want them searching for that unsubscribe button since they might as well find the “Spam complaint” button if they get frustrated.

Therefore, place your unsubscribe link at an obvious place and don’t hide it or make it extra small. If you’re using Moosend as your email marketing service of choice, we’ll add an unsubscribe link for you automatically even if you forget!

6. Try To Avoid Spam Traps

Spam traps are used by ISPs and anti-spam organizations to lure and identify spammers. Usually, a spam trap is created from an out-of-date email address that doesn’t belong to a real person and its only purpose is to identify potential spammers.

If your list contains a spam trap, it considerably affects your ability to deliver emails to your subscribers’ inboxes.

To tackle the danger of spam traps, maintain list hygiene by deleting old email addresses. Spam traps do not exhibit engagement (clicks, opens) like real people, so if you’re actively managing inactive subscribers you take out spam traps too.

Additionally, you can use email validation tools for new sign-ups to catch non-existing email addresses before they make it into your list.

7. Craft Clear CTAs

The way you use your calls-to-action (CTAs) could potentially lead to deliverability problems with Microsoft mailbox users.

As a general rule of thumb, avoid using CTAs that spammers tend to use such as “Update immediately!”, “Register today!” or “Log in now!”.

Use clear CTAs that drive action while also adding a sense of urgency to increase conversions. Your CTAs could be something like “Buy now”, “Get the coupon” or “Learn more.” It’s very important to establish what works for your audience through A/B testing. Then, you could optimize your strategy accordingly.

Final Thoughts

While all these steps look tiresome at first glance, they help ensure that your Hotmail/Outlook subscribers successfully receive your email campaigns so you can enjoy the great ROI that email marketing has to offer.

If you’re looking for a trustworthy email marketing service to make it happen, sign up for a free Moosend account and give it a go!

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