Email Deliverability — What You Need to Know About Getting Your Emails to the Inbox

(Updated March 2017)
The success of an email-marketing program is highly dependent on email deliverability. After all, people can’t respond to your campaigns if they never receive your emails. How can you help ensure that the emails you send actually get to the people who signed up for them? That’s what we discuss in this month’s feature.

What Is Email Deliverability?

Email deliverability is the rate of emails delivered to a subscriber’s or customer’s inbox. To drive a successful email campaign, it’s vital that you know your content is reaching your intended audience. Gone are the days when companies would simply send a test email to assess deliverability. Also keep in mind that there is never a single factor determining deliverability. In fact, it’s a combination of factors that plays a role in email deliverability, which is discussed below.

IP Addresses and Domain Names Play a Major Role in Email Deliverability

Although there are a number of factors that determine your email deliverability, the Internet Protocol (IP) address and domain name you use to send your emails play an important role. The IP address is a numeric label that uniquely identifies every computer/sending source and essentially serves as the pipe through which email is sent to your list of recipients.

To help reduce costs, many email service providers (ESPs) share a limited number of IP addresses among a large number of their client users. So, if your organization shares an IP address with other companies—some of which may have less-than-desirable email practices—there’s the possibility that your IP address and domain name could end up with a bad reputation, simply due to others who are sharing your IP address. The worst-case scenario is that your IP address ends up with a bad reputation or exhibits behavior that appears to demonstrate poor email practices, resulting in it being blacklisted or blocked by some Internet service providers (ISPs). That means that, even if your emails are following email good practices, ISPs such as Google and Yahoo could block your emails. So, the more companies sharing IP addresses with you, the higher the probability that your company could suffer from a bad reputation due to another’s practices. We frequently see this issue when new clients ask us to review their deliverability.

To improve your control over your reputation, ESPs offer companies their own dedicated IP address. In that case, you “live and die by your own sword.” In other words, only your company’s email practices will determine your email reputation.

How Do ISPs Determine Your Email Reputation?

ISPs have developed increasingly sophisticated algorithms to determine email reputations and, for obvious reasons, don’t publicize exactly how they do it. The following are some of the major practices that can affect how an ISP may calculate an emailer’s reputation:

  • How the emailer handles bounces—if you email repeatedly to addresses that have previously bounced for you, that’s an example of poor email practices.
  • The extent to which a sender does or does not set up the necessary infrastructure items—such as sender policy framework (SPF) and domain keys—to confirm the true origin of the email.
  • Whether an emailer’s recipients consistently open and/or click through emails—the lower the open and click-through rates, the lower the engagement or interest by the subscribers; low engagement is yet another measure of potentially questionable email practices.

Email Authentication—An Important Key to Getting Your Emails Delivered

Email authentication confirms to the user that the email is coming from a verified source—your organization—and is not a spammy link. If the ISP can’t authenticate your organization as a sender, then it can negatively impact email deliverability. The two primary authentication methods that are used today are SPF and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM). And although email authentication doesn’t result in guaranteed email delivery, it certainly helps organizations reach a customer’s inbox. Click here to learn more about how email authentication can positively influence email deliverability.

Email Deliverability and User Engagement

Another important factor that affects email deliverability is overall user and customer engagement with your email messaging. In fact, email engagement is key to determining deliverability. Although ISPs may not be measuring clicks, your company should have tactics in place to measure the click-through rates of your email marketing. This will help your company get a better sense if your email content is producing the right user/customer engagement and where improvements can be made.

Another way to increase user engagement is to create content that is more personalized to your users/customers. Their reaction to your creative content and wording is what ultimately determines if they’ll open an email or mark it as spam. Make sure your email content and subject lines are well written and relate to your specific demographic.

When it comes to user engagement, it’s also important to keep in mind the timeline of your subscribers’ overall interest and engagement with your emails. According to MarketingSherpa and EmailLabs, the longer people stay on your email list, the more likely they will lose interest in your email subscriptions. As such, companies will see a drop of between 20% and 25% in subscribers’ open rates in the first two months after signing up and a 35% to 45% decrease within two years. Because of this subscriber trend, your organization needs to find engaging ways to keep subscribers happy and interested in your brand.

Email Deliverability Best Practices

The following are seven important ways you can help maintain a good email reputation and improve email deliverability:

  1. Manage the inactive users on your email list. A high number of inactive users—subscribers who haven’t opened or clicked on your emails in a certain period of time, such as six months or more—can hurt your email deliverability. With numerous inactive users, showing high engagement with subscribers is tough. Click here for some tips on how to reengage inactive users on your list.
  2. Have a good process for handling email bounce rates. When you send an email to a nonexistent email address, it’s classified as a bounce. If you keep sending emails to the same addresses that bounced, you’ll get a bad reputation. So, be sure to quickly remove bounced email addresses from your email list.
  3. Promptly remove names of individuals who unsubscribe. To comply with CAN/SPAM regulations, the names of people who unsubscribe should be removed within 10 days. Most ESPs allow you to automate this process so that people are removed immediately upon unsubscribing.
  4. Aggressively manage your email-marketing program. This includes consistently creating engaging content (e.g., interactive email campaigns) that is customized to the greatest extent possible for individuals on your email list.
  5. Send emails only to people who have given you permission—and preferably confirm their permission with a double opt-in.
  6. Have a consistent schedule. If your emails are sent to subscribers or customers sporadically, flags may be raised. That’s why you should schedule to have your emails delivered at consistent times. Creating a schedule will help guarantee email delivery and keep you top of mind with your subscribers.
  7. Know your email reputation and take a deliverability test. What is email delivery, and how is email marketing defined by your individual organization? Work with your email-marketing agency and ESPs to answer these questions and regularly measure your reputation scores. At FulcrumTech, we’ve developed a Deliverability Essentials Test that can quickly—within 24 hours—help you identify potential sources of deliverability problems. Click here for more information about our Deliverability Essentials Test, as well as the special $149 offer available for a limited time.

Looking for the best ways to improve your email deliverability and boost the number of your emails that are opened? FulcrumTech’s experts and email deliverability services can help you achieve email success. Email us or give us a call at 215-489-9336 and get started today.

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