How Can Engagement Rates Impact Your Deliverability?

Vladislav Podolyako
Jul 15, 2021
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How Can Engagement Rates Impact Your Deliverability? 

How do you measure the success of your email marketing campaigns? Is it the open rate? The number of positive replies? Or maybe a little bit of everything?

If you went for the latter options, congratulations! That’s correct. However, do you know the metric that you, as an email marketer, must scrupulously monitor to ensure that your campaign is doing well? 

It’s about time we discussed email engagement rate and why it's so important in email marketing.

What is email engagement rate?

To understand the email engagement rate, you must first understand terminology like "inbox placement", which refers to the number of messages that were sent to recipients' inboxes rather than the spam folder. Inbox placement is determined by email engagement rate. A low engagement rate indicates that too many of your emails wind up in spam, while a high engagement rate indicates that the majority of your emails get sent to your intended recipients. It's as simple as that.

Email engagement matters to you as an email marketer because it not only shows how effectively your campaigns work but also tells email service providers what kind of sender you are. Many email providers, such as Gmail, have created a set of tools for assessing engagement rates to ensure that each user only gets the most relevant and truly essential messages. As a result, senders with low engagement rates will be seated at the rear of the bus, while those with high engagement rates will be seated in the front.

If you want to be among the prioritized group, you must take good care of your engagement and all its elements:

  • Opens. How many times do your recipients open your messages? Do they read them just once or return to them several times per day?
  • Clicks. How many times do your recipients click links in your email? Do they interact with polls or forms that you attach to your messages?
  • Responses. Would it be true that just a small percentage of your receivers respond to your message? How often does this occur?
  • Forwards. Do your recipients forward your emails to other titles within the company? Are your messages shared among individuals in your target audience? 
  • Dwell time. Do your recipients take their time with reading your email or do they spend less than one minute?
  • Complaint receipts. How often do your recipients issue complaints on your emails? Do you comply with email marketing guidelines?
  • Spam redirects. How often do your emails get marked as spam and directed to the appropriate folder? 

Your engagement rate increases when people read your emails, click the links, or forward them to other recipients. Your engagement rate decreases when receivers don't read your emails, complain about them, or mark them as spam.

How to measure a good email engagement rate?

So, we've listed the variables that influence email engagement rates. But first, let's discover how to calculate an email engagement score for your email marketing campaigns.

So, now that you have this data, how do you calculate your email engagement score? 

Assume you send emails to about 600 people. Only 250 of these people clicked on the link in your email. Only 85 people out of the 250 who received the email clicked on the links in the message. We'll now put these figures through the following equation:

Open rate:

250/600 x 100 = 41%

Click rate:

85/250 x 100 = 34%

Are those rates acceptable? It depends on your industry and its open rate standards. If your number of opens and clicks is appropriate to the requirements of your industry, you’re good to go. When you see that you’re falling behind, it’s time to take measures. 

How to fix low email engagement rates

So, what do you do if your email engagement doesn’t perform as you expect it to? Low engagement means that your recipients don’t interact with your emails because they can’t see your emails. 

How can this happen?

  • DNS problems. You might create the most captivating and enticing templates in the world, but due to a problem with your domain, your intended recipient will never see them. Because your DNS settings and records direct your email across domains and servers, any errors have a detrimental effect on your outreach. Because your DNS settings and records direct your email across domains and servers, any errors have a detrimental effect on your outreach.
  • Incorrect targeting. It's critical to keep an eye on the contacts in your contact list. It's relatively common for email accounts to become inactive, abandoned, or used as spam traps. When a sender fails to detect this change and continues to send emails, the bounce rate is the only rate that increases.
  • No time for mailbox warm up. You won't get any results if you send email marketing campaigns from a new subdomain and mailbox. Instead, you'll enrage internet service providers and risk being flagged as a potential spammer. “Slow and steady wins the race”, especially when it comes to email marketing.

So, in order to improve your engagement, you need to do the following:

Check your DNS records

Before you can go on with your masterplan, you must first take care of the essentials. DNS records map out the path for your emails and ensure that your domain is properly represented for receiving servers and email service providers. SPF records, for example, tell recipient servers what to do with emails that seem to originate from your domain but fail the authentication check. As a result, if your SPF record contains conflicting mechanisms or has been accidentally duplicated, it will have a detrimental impact on your deliverability and email marketing.

You can check your DNS settings by contacting your host’s tech support or by using free tools, such as MX Tool or the Folderly deliverability test

Clean up your sending list

It's about time you give your contact list your complete and undivided attention if you haven't checked it in at least a year.

  • Remove inactive contacts. If you see that some of your recipients have been steadily ignoring your emails for weeks, don’t wait for them to miraculously turn into responsive and highly active customers. Chances are, they no longer use the email address you have or they’re just not interested. Whatever the reason, keeping them on your list would hurt your campaign in the long run. Let them go and look for other opportunities. 
  • Invest in remarketing. It's a good sign if a group of receivers doesn't reply frequently but continues reading your emails and clicks links. These individuals are obviously interested in your business, but they are unsure of what they are searching for or need more support to make a decision. Make it easier for them by providing more engaging information (polls, quizzes, free consultation offers, etc.).
  • Review your targeting. Are you confident about the titles included in your target audience? Maybe your targeting is way too wide, so it’s hard to distinguish your potential buyers and decision-makers from the rest. Also, your targeting may be a bit too narrow, isolating your potential clients away from you. Maybe you’re missing someone from the decision-making group? Take your time to explore the hierarchy in the companies you’re targeting and map out the most relevant titles that match your qualifiers to a tee. 

Sometimes, you may even encounter the necessity to build a completely new sending list in order to fix your email engagement rate. However, worry not: it’s better to build a new thing that would work than struggle with something that wouldn’t. 

Warm up your mailboxes

Now comes the most tedious part. Internet service providers value consistency and stability just as much as they despise abrupt shifts and activity spikes. The ability to create and adhere to a consistent pattern is the key to excellent email deliverability (and, by extension, a high email engagement rate).

In our line of work, we’ve often worked with clients who started sending hundreds of emails from their freshly-made mailboxes. They believed that since they had a good domain reputation and their domain was mature enough, they were good to go. Nonetheless, since they didn't adequately introduce their new mailboxes, they had to cope with falling numbers and deliverability problems.

To avoid their mistakes, you should take care of the following: 

  • Segmentation. If you sell to several markets or several age groups, you can’t paint all of them with the same brush. Depending on their occupation and goals, your prospects have different preferences and work at their own pace. Your job is to adapt to their patterns, not to force them to adapt to you. Segmenting your recipients into groups allows you to differentiate between their behavior patterns, which in turn lets you build flexible schedules for sending emails and choose the perfect moment to engage every potential buyer. 
  • Frequency. Decide how often you will be sending emails to your recipients. Mind that you don’t have to send messages every day to earn internet service providers’ trust. Choosing a certain day and a time slot will work better for your email marketing. If you followed our email list segmentation advice, you’ll be sending emails all week long because every target group has particular requirements regarding time slots and the best days for sending emails. 
  • Cadence. As we’ve mentioned before, you won’t conquer your prospects with just one email. You’ll need at least six of them, sent within a certain period of time, just to book a meeting with a prospect. An email cadence is a flow of messages that are moved to your prospects’ inboxes within a certain time gap. If you send an introduction email, then send a follow-up at the end of the week and send another one the next week, you created a cadence. The intensity of the flow of emails depends on your prospects’ preferences. If you manage to pick the right pattern, you’ll make your messages visible and more appealing to your recipients. 

Building the right frequency and cadence for every segment of your target audience allows you to build the very stability that internet service providers approve of. To warm your new mailboxes up properly, you must:

  1. Start with sending messages from your new email address to well-known contacts in your list. Don’t forget to inform your trustworthy recipients in advance that the new address belongs to your domain and they are safe to interact with it. 
  2. Start with a small number of emails, no more than ten. In two weeks, you can increase this volume up to twenty emails per day.
  3. Keep running mailbox audits and deliverability tests to check your performance. If you see that your open rate and click rate grow, you can smoothly introduce your newly-made mailboxes to your email marketing flow. 
  4. Don’t stop your campaign regardless of the season. It will take a while before your new mailboxes are fully accepted by internet service providers, so keep going even when it seems that all your recipients are on vacation. Even a slight pause can drag you back to the starting point, forcing you to start everything anew. 


How to keep your email engagement rates high?

Like any element of email marketing, building and maintaining a good email engagement rate takes a lot of time and hard work, so, naturally, you don’t want your efforts to go to waste. In addition to regular DNS record checkups, email list cleaning, and mailbox warmup, there is a wide range of steps and measures you can take in order to protect your email engagement rate from plummeting. 

  • Respect recipients’ complaints. When recipients don’t want to get messages from you, they usually send you an email asking you to stop. Some sales representatives would take it as a challenge and start trying to re-introduce those reluctant prospects into the sales funnel. However, nobody likes to be forced into anything, so the prospects’ response is rightfully angry. In their frustration, users send reports to your email service provider, leading to your domain name added to blacklists and your domain reputation going down. Don’t push your luck - let your recipients go when they ask for it, no questions asked, no begging or bartering. Moreover, let your recipients and subscribers opt out of the conversation without having to confront you.
  • Build engagement from your side. The activity in your mailbox matters as much as the activity in your recipients’ inboxes. Make sure to regularly interact with the emails you receive, don’t leave unread messages in your mailbox by the end of the day, mark relevant messages as important to let the system know which email addresses it should prioritize. 
  • Monitor blacklists.  At some point, you may end up blacklisted in spite of being a legitimate sender. However, if you respond in time, it won’t be a problem for your email marketing. Find blacklist databases and explore them or use a special tool that would scan blacklists for you and send you a detailed report. Folderly deliverability test includes such a feature, giving you a great look at your status among SpamAssassin, Barracuda and other well-known blacklists. 
  • Keep introducing new value. A good vendor is always aware of their target audience’s needs growing and shifting. Reaching out in time and appealing to those needs even before the intended buyers fully realize them is an art honed with years of practice and creating interesting, exclusive content. 
  • Make use of social media engagement rate. If you promote your brand via social networks or a professional network such as LinkedIn, you can make use of the connections you make there by reaching out to social media users’ inboxes. With the right template, offer and tone, you can squeeze maximum value out of your interactions and boost the productivity of your email campaigns. 


A good email engagement rate depends on technical factors, such as your DNS settings and your ability to maintain domain reputation, and human factors like creativity, friendliness and understanding of your prospects’ mentality. You must build a path to your recipients’ inboxes and then put your magic of content-making and personalization into keeping your engagements high. 

We hope, with this post, building engagement will become a much easier task for you. If you want to know about DNS records, domain warmup and other challenges of email marketing, don’t forget to explore the contents of our blog. A lot more tips will be coming your way, so stay tuned!

Vladislav Podolyako
Vladislav Podolyako
Founder & CEO
Vlad’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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