Common Aspects that Can Ruin Email Deliverability and How to Avoid Them

Vladislav Podolyako
Jul 20, 2022
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These days, relevant content is what many marketing teams are working on, and for a good reason. However, something else can affect the fate of your marketing emailsemail deliverability. There is little use to praying on the email open rate if your messages end up nowhere near the subscriber's inbox.

๐Ÿ“ฎ All the online communication that gets into the junk folder is as effective as sending no mail at all. If you want to take over the recipient's mailbox, you must understand what email deliverability is and how to improve the rates to get the best results. That is precisely what we will discuss in this professional deliverability guide. Get your pens poised and take these success-programmed tips down ahead of the competition!

What is email deliverability: the notion explained in detail

Should you be new to the email marketing field, it is utterly easy to mistake the notion of email delivery for email deliverability. The two are fundamentally different, though. While effective delivery is responsible for your messages reaching the destination – the recipient inbox, effective deliverability ensures that your letters reach the primary inbox, not the spam folder.

Every popular Internet Service Provider works so that it has to properly deliver your email messages and protect its users from spam emails. That is why most ISPs have a strict policy when it comes to filtering suspicious emails out. Here comes your email deliverability rate. The more factors, such as spam complaints and questionable content, indicate that you are a spammer, the lower your deliverability scores will drop.

Before you assume that all is lost, you should realize that there are compelling and practical ways to improve your deliverability rates. We'll talk about them as we proceed with this informative guide.

Is email deliverability critical?

Once your email delivery scores reach over 90% ๐Ÿ“ˆ, you may think that email deliverability would be as good. However, in the majority of cases, even such a high delivery rate can't affect the deliverability positively. If you leave the matter unattended, the negative effects will pile up.

Marketing emails that go to the spam folder are rarely to be spotted, opened, and proceeded with. This can only mean that all the investment into the marketing campaign goes to waste. Furthermore, senders with low deliverability rates are frowned upon by most Internet Service Providers and can be either blacklisted or blocked. These actions will directly and negatively affect your ROI, company income, and brand reputation. That is why improving your deliverability scores is so critical.

What is a good email deliverability rate?

๐Ÿ” The best delivery rate is 100%. Yet, the score is as unrealistic in modern-life marketing as it sounds. That is why it's no use to set your expectations that high. If your email delivery stats come at 95% or a bit higher – you can consider yourself a successful marketer. If the statistics show that you remain a little lower on the scale, you should do everything possible to improve your email deliverability. It is critical to note that a sender can't control all the process components. Various technical issues may interfere with your deliverability, but they cause insignificant damage to the campaign in most cases.

How do you measure email deliverability?

When you know what a good email deliverability rate should be, you may want to calculate your current stats. There is a simple way to do that. The formula includes the number of messages sent and the quantity of those delivered, sprinkled with some multiplying and division. Let's have a practical example reviewed to bring the matter closer to you.

You sent 1000 emails, and 900 were delivered according to the statistical and tracking data. You have to divide 900 by 1000 – you get a 0.9 score. Multiply the 0.9 by 100, and you will get 90%. Thus, your deliverability score is 90%, which is not bad, but slight tuning may help you take it even higher.

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The notion of bounced email

Before we proceed with the primary factors affecting email deliverability, you should always understand what email bounces are. You may come across the term quite often, so it helps to be ready to read your stats correctly.

In some cases, the email message does not get into the user's inbox at all. Such a message is considered bounced. There are two types of bounces. They are the following: ๐Ÿ‘‡

  • hard;
  • soft.

Hard bounce

Hard bounces should be taken seriously when you spot the first one on your report. These bounces clearly indicate that you are sending to inactive or abandoned email addresses. If you have just a single hard bounce, there is nothing to worry about as long as you delete the inactive address from your sending list. However, if you leave the matter unattended, it will damage your sender reputation and deliverability as a sequence.

Soft bounce

A soft bounce often occurs because of temporary inconveniences, such as a full inbox or rapidly increased sending volume. Most Email Service Providers watch carefully for unexpected spikes in sending bulks. If you have been sending emails irregularly and in insignificant numbers and then start sending hundreds of messages a day, the mailbox provider will get suspicious since it is a direct indicator of suspicious activity. The best way to avoid the soft bounces is to gradually build your sending volumes.

Primary factors affecting email deliverability

After you measure email deliverability and it seems like some tuning is necessary, you may want to start with the most common deliverability issues. According to the industry experts, blacklists, failed authentication, and poor sender reputation lead to deliverability drops. ๐Ÿ‘€ Let's review all potential deliverability problems in detail, shall we?

Email sender reputation

Sender reputation is one of the critical factors affecting email deliverability you should learn about. The lower your sender score, the higher the chances you will miss the primary inbox of your active subscribers. A few points are evaluated, which predetermine the trustworthiness of your email campaign.

What is the sender reputation?

Establishing a good sender reputation is challenging if you have a vague idea of what the notion stands for. The reputation of the address that all of your email campaigns are sent from is the sender's reputation. The reputation can be rated on a scale from 0 to 100. It goes without saying that the higher the score is, the better.

What affects your sender's reputation?

A few factors can contribute to the increase or decrease in reputation. They are the following:

  • Number of messages sent from your domain;
  • Number of emails sent from the same IP address;
  • Number of letters sent daily;
  • An overall number of emails sent by you.

Very often, high-volume senders are inspected by modern Email Service Providers in the first place. That is why you should carefully compile your mailing lists ๐Ÿ“ƒ, so you don't get on too many uncontacted addresses simultaneously. Besides, building your volumes up gradually is crucial.

Email authentication

Aside from email sender reputation, you should pay increased attention to the notion of authentication. The primary role of the process would be to determine whether a message is sent from a legitimate domain, as it claims to be sent. The deliverability will decrease if an ISP assumes that there is some 'masking' involved. Usually, two primary records are used to detect spammers – SPF and DKIM.

Definition of SPF and DKIM records

Sender Policy Framework

An SPF record is one of the primary means used to authenticate a marketing email. The record checks whether the mail server that sends it is authorized. Every domain has a list of IP addresses allowed to send messages on its behalf. SPF records decide whether a dedicated IP address is connected with the indicated domain or not. In case the stated address is fake, SPF will ensure that mail servers deny it.

DomainKeys Identified Mail

Another critical authentication record would be DKIM. The primary task of the record would be to help those who receive messages determine if they are authentic and secure. Email validation is carried through the exploitation of unique digital signatures and encryption keys. ๐Ÿ’ช DKIM records come of great use when it comes to dealing with email spoofing and phishing emails. As opposed to SPF records, DKIM ones are all about the message contents so that a recipient does not open a potentially harmful email.

Downsides of authentication

While authentication is surely a useful practice, there are potential drawbacks you should be ready to face. Most of them concern forwarded messages, and here is why:

If a message is forwarded outside the domain with the SPF record intact, the mail server may reject it. However, more and more email servers rely on Sender Rewriting Scheme to avoid the mentioned inconvenience.

As for the DKIM authentication, the receiving server may view forwarded online communication with the record intact as illegitimate since the sender is different. Yet, many popular email service providers work on effective ways of dealing with the matter.

SPF or DKIM – that is the question?

The two records can be used separately, but the industry experts advise that you make the most of both of them โ—๏ธ. SPF and DKIM are designed to work in sync to provide the best result. Not so long ago, it was a common practice for scammers to impersonate legitimate senders and lure recipients into opening potentially dangerous letters. With the introduction of proper authentication, it's become a lot easier to keep such fraudulent actions at bay.

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Internet Service Providers and email service infrastructure

While most ISPs offer cloud-based services, a fair share of hardware and dedicated software is still involved. One of the common factors that affect email deliverability would be the infrastructure. No matter how common the notion seems, it is costly and tiresome to set up your infrastructure fit for handling large volumes. Besides, maintaining the infrastructure requires the use of experienced personnel, and not every marketing team can afford the expenses. That is why it is advised that you refer to high-end tools developed to deal with email service infrastructure.

Open rate

๐Ÿ“Š A dedicated email deliverability audit will highlight the open rate stats, among the other critical details. The open rate shows the number of your messages that the users have opened. Usually, the given stats don't have a significant impact on the deliverability rates. However, you should monitor the statistics in any case. The lower the rate drops, the worse the deliverability stats will get.

It's no use to expect a 100% open rate. You should aim at a 20%-score to keep on top of the competition. In case your open score is slightly lower, you may want to inspect the message's content and the dreaded spam folder data. Yet, once the open rate drops below 15%, it is time to clean your mailing list since the chances are that most of the addresses added to it are already inactive.

Lastly, 10%-rate is a red flag to watch out for. Most ISPs are incredibly suspicious regarding senders with such open rate stats. They usually mark such senders as spammers, and consequently, the deliverability gets extremely low.

Hitting the spam folder

Once you learn that most of your email marketing campaigns hit spam folders, you should detect the main reasons why. According to recent field research, two leading causes will get your messages directly into the junk folder. They are the following:

  • Spam traps;
  • spam complaints.

Spam complaint

Many well-known mailbox providers have introduced a feature that allows their active users to mark any incoming message as spam โœ”๏ธ. While the function proves to be useful when it comes to actual spam messages, some legitimate letters get flagged by frustrated clients too.

Surely, if you spot a single complaint within a set period, it won't affect your reputation or deliverability. Yet, it takes a dedicated approach to the mailing list composition so that only active subscribers end up being added to it. Besides, working on high-quality content helps keep those complaints at bay.

Spam trap

Spam traps, in their turn, are special addresses owned by popular email programs. The main goal of these traps is to catch spammers who tend to purchase mailing lists or send out their email campaigns to uninterested users who haven't given permission to use their data. The more traps you have on your list, the lower your deliverability and reputation will sink. In some cases, suspicious email campaigns lose the ability to get to any inbox folder, spam one or otherwise.

Email blacklist and their consequences

It helps to keep your eye open for various blacklists among countless email deliverability problems. Typically, blacklists represent online databases known to store email addresses flagged as spam ๐Ÿšฉ. Based on popular blacklist data, mailbox providers can decide whether to let the message through and have it securely delivered, or block it instead.

How do you avoid blacklists?

The best way to keep away from different blacklists would be to produce high-quality content, send it to engaged subscribers, and keep the sending bulks stable and regular. In case you worry that your address may be on one of the blacklists, you can test it using one of the free blacklist tools available online.

How do you avoid and fix everything that affects the email deliverability rate?

๐Ÿค” With all the primary aspects that can ruin your deliverability in mind, you may be wondering how to avoid those so that your rates only grow or at least remain stable. A few vital points can help you maximize email deliverability, and we will discuss them in detail.

Deliverability and reputation test

One of the most critical steps to determine your place in the process is to figure out how far out your business has already gone. Should you be just at the beginning of your marketing path, the chances are that there is nothing wrong with your deliverability stats.

Yet, it is always a good idea to try email spam testing if you notice any signs that your messages fail to reach the clients or end up in the spam folder.

Services like Folderly will provide you with detailed insight into what is going on with your score and how to fix it in the best and the most secure way. Besides, the company's experts are always willing to provide additional information to make your marketing journey twice as pleasant and success-oriented.

Impressive and client-oriented content

With all the pressing matters that concern good email reputation, domain reputation, and reliable IP addresses, it is easy to forget what email marketing is actually about. One of the most common reasons for decreased open rate and increased bounce score is low-quality content. If the users don't like what you offer and how you offer it, the chances are that they will report you in no time, and you know where that leads.

Once you start brooding about the content you present your clients with, you may want to have a closer look at your subject lines. It is not enough to ensure that the perfect subject line length is maintained. It helps to come up with an engaging subject. The one that triggers a reader's attention and makes it irresistible to open the letter.

While most email marketers are more than capable of creating unique and appealing subject lines on their own, you should realize that there are different subject line generators available online. You can combine your efforts to come up with the fittest outcome.

Freedom to unsubscribe

Some ways to enhance the deliverability rates โ˜„๏ธ may seem counterintuitive to those who have entered the field recently. The stated rule applies to the 'unsubscribe' policy. It appears that if you allow your recipients to unsubscribe, you will lose your client base in no time. However, you should remember that the more unengaged users are on your list, the higher the chance of getting reported as a spam sender.

Thus, you may want to keep up with the modern email marketing trends and add an unsubscribe link to the top of your message. If you feel uncertain about the approach, you can insert the link at the bottom of the message, but avoiding it altogether will serve you poorly.

Sending limits and volume

It is easy to lose track of sending limits and volume when sending emails containing vital information, such as a tempting discount or upcoming sale information. However, consistency is the key to everything, and the marketing industry isn't an exception. If you spike your limits and volume overnight, any self-respecting email service provider will view you as a suspicious source, which will negatively affect the inbox placement.

The simplest way to maintain a good sender reputation is to build your volume gradually. Even if you are short on time, there is a way out. For instance, if you send a single message a week and have to switch to five letters within five days, the best thing to do would be warm up the users' curiosity by sending a teaser every few days before the big event. Such a gradual build-up in volume will help you keep the stats high.  

Good list hygiene

Experts usually point out mailing lists among the most common email deliverability issues. The problem with those is that they typically contain inactive subscribers and outdated addresses. There is no chance you can adequately deliver to those. Thus, the bounce results grow, and open rates drop ๐Ÿ“‰. As a sequence, such an outcome leads to ineffective strategies and low deliverability.

Hard bounces should be reacted to immediately, while soft bounces can be postponed and monitored for a while in case you can succeed with re-engaging some clients. Yet, the point stands – you should clean your lists often. If you think manual list monitoring takes too much time and effort, you can invest in a quality automation tool that will do it for it. The modern market offers quite a variety to choose from.

User consent

The best way to improve your deliverability results and spike sales is to spread the marketing word across the subscriber base. However, even if you don't invest in a pre-purchased mailing list, some addresses on your legit list may contain users who haven't intended to end up there. What does it mean? Some people may share their sensitive information, such as an address, without even realizing it. That is why you should ensure their utter consent by implementing the double opt-in feature in the process.

Single opt-in

If you are new to the field, you may see little difference between double op-ins and single opt-ins, but the difference is table-turning. With a single opt-in intact, it takes as much as the user address provided for a client to end up on your subscriber list. However, as it has been mentioned, some people don't realize that their address can be used as marketing consent.

Sometimes, a person shares the address thinking they are signing up for a receipt, not a newsletter subscription. As you start bombarding people with your promotions and offers, this may trigger an opposite reaction that you count on. That is why single opt-ins are better to be avoided.

Double opt-in

As opposed to single opt-ins, there are also double opt-ins. The feature implies that a customer takes two steps to become an active subscriber ๐Ÿ‘ฃ. Most mailing list providers present the function encoded in the system these days. How does it work? Once clients share their addresses with you, they are sent a confirmation list to their address. Upon following the link, the customer shares their consent for getting other letters from you.

There are other variations of double opt-ins, but the point remains unchanged. If a user gets through both actions, they become your active and aware subscribers until they decide to opt-out of your list and unsubscribe from you.

Purchased mailing lists

Many marketing teams have made the same mistake of investing in rented mailing lists, and many will make it still. It seems so tempting to save yourself time and effort and instead of building your list — buy one. The online market is filled with various ready-made offers. However, the reality is rarely that simple. Most purchased lists will get you straight on a blacklist rather than to the top of the marketing chain.

Unfortunate things like increased spam complaints and decreased open rate will inevitably happen to a rented list user. All because such lists contain addresses of people who haven't shared their permission to receive online communication from you.

โ—๏ธ On top of that, using a rented and purchased list is illegal under certain circumstances. Not to mention that these lists are filled with all sorts of spam traps and outdated information. It may take you a little longer to compile your subscriber base, but the time and effort invested in the process will pay you off double.

Final words

Email deliverability is one of the most important metrics that effective email marketing relies on. The proper approach to the stats will grant you precisely the inbox placement you have counted on. Regular tests and careful monitoring of the deliverability rates will help you pass by spam filters undetected.

Should you worry that some of your delivered emails still hit the wrong inbox, you can use all the described means to improve your results.

Besides, a practical deliverability audit presented and supported by Folderly may come of use no matter the part of the marketing journey you are at. Don't hesitate to contact our experts when the need arises!

Vladislav Podolyako
Vladislav Podolyako
Founder & CEO
Vladโ€™s decades of entrepreneurial wisdom and business building experience have allowed him to successfully mentor a diverse group of business owners, entrepreneurs in growing their companies. A recognized expert in the areas of transforming organizational culture and leadership development, B2B Sales, Marketing, spent more than 10 years building technology products, with a background in communication networks and electronic device engineering.

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