You may know it as ham. Or bacon (spelled ‘bacn’). I guess email marketers have a penchant for meat products. Most people, however, just call it graymail.
Never heard of it? I hadn‘t either until a coworker casually dropped it in conversation and left me with a few dozen follow-up questions. Here’s what I learned.
What is graymail?
Graymail is an email you opt to receive but never open or click through.
For example, let‘s say you’re shopping, and the cashier asks during checkout if you'd like to submit your email address to receive deals in your inbox.
While you initially said yes, you eventually grew weary of the subsequent emails from the store and no longer interacted with them. They then become graymail. Graymail can include newsletters, promotional emails, announcements, or continuously ignored advertisements.
ISPs know these messages are graymail based on recipient engagement — or lack thereof. So if you open an email from a retailer — and then never open or engage with their subsequent 50 or so emails — it‘s a good sign that it’s graymail.
Over time, ISPs learn what you consider graymail based on your actions — and the actions of all recipients across emails sent from that domain — so it gets smarter with categorization.
Graymail vs. Spam
Graymail is not spam. Spam is sent to the recipient without their consent, typically for commercial reasons. Though it can get annoying after a while, graymail is sent to recipients after permission is given.
Another critical difference between spam and graymail is that the latter is often harmless, while the former can contain malicious links and scams.
Graymail vs. Graylisting
Graymail also is different from graylisting. Graylisting refers to the idea that ISPs might not deliver an entire batch of mail all at once if they don‘t trust your IP. So, let’s say you just got a new dedicated IP and want to send out 100,000 emails — they might accept some of those emails, graylist the others, and send the remainder when they know it's safe to deliver messages from you.
Graymail and graylisting, however, aren't directly related — they both have gray in the name.
Where does graymail go?
So you've got all this graymail out there — where does it go?
A lot of companies have come up with products specifically to address graymail. That‘s what Gmail’s Priority Inbox is, for instance. Hotmail helped coin the graymail term and created a product to address it.
If your message is identified as graymail, it will likely get routed to one of the graymail products — like your Promotions folder. So it got delivered, but it might not get seen.
How does graymail affect email marketers?
Graymail is another reason to do what good email marketers already do: focus on segmentation, personalization, and engagement. You should:
Post-send engagement data can help you develop a strategy for combatting the prospect that graymail might route your messages into other inbox tabs and folders. You can use this data to see what marketing emails are being opened, clicked through, or ignored.
What We Like: You can then use this information to send relevant content that will entice consumers to engage.
A lot of marketing is trial and error. Experiment with your email to see how it impacts your email engagement. Are recipients more or less likely to interact if you send content every two weeks, every other day, or once a month?
Pro Tip: Emails sent on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday usually get the most engagement. In contrast, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday emails have the lowest open and click-through rates.
Leverage re-engagement campaigns for contacts who have stopped engaging with your messages. A re-engagement campaign can boost open rates, reduce bounce rates, increase engagement, and improve your email reputation.
Pro Tip: Entice recipients with incentives like discounts, freebies, or customer service.
Additionally, constantly work to improve your segmentation rules so you can send more personalized, relevant content that recipients will take time out of their day to seek out and read.
Graymail is excellent for email marketers because it sets aside marketing emails when recipients are in the mood to be marketed.
And when they‘re in the mood and have the time to consume marketing emails, they have all those messages at their fingertips. It’s a better experience for the recipient and, thus, a better result for the marketer.