Advice to Improve Your Email Deliverability & General Stuff You Need to Know About It

Author
Vladislav Podolyako
Published
Jul 31, 2022
Reading duration
21m

You've probably heard the phrase "email deliverability" a thousand times by now. It's a term used frequently in online marketing circles. Today, people are crazy about improving email deliverability. So, what's the big deal? What is the significance of email deliverability? Can you enhance it? And how do you do that? We’ve got all the answers for you, but before you find out how to improve email deliverability, you must understand what email deliverability is.

What is email deliverability?

Technically speaking, email deliverability is the email frequency with which an email arrives in a subscriber's inbox ๐Ÿ“ฌ. It's also known as inbox placement, and it's the most important metric for everyone because the inbox is where your messages get opened from. There are many things affecting email deliverability. Your overall sender reputation, your IP reputation, the possession of proper SPF and DKIM DNS records in place, and other factors all play a huge role in whether you make it into a person’s inbox (or their spam folder). Yes, it’s not just open rates and click rates to pay attention to.

In a broader sense, email deliverability is an essential component of any online business. Without it, you won't get very far. Email deliverability is an essential part of any good business, and they contribute to your company's overall success, income, traffic, and brand image. But at this point, it’s important to realize that email deliverability isn’t the same thing as email delivery. There is a dramatic difference between the two terms. We’re about to explain it to you so that you don’t get confused.

The thin line between email deliverability & email delivery

While the two may seem synonymous or even identical at a first glance, it’s like that only on the surface. The reality is that email delivery and email deliverability are not interchangeable. Here’s what we mean: ๐Ÿ‘‡

  • Email delivery — this is the percentage of electronic letters received by your Internet Service Provider's (ISP) mail servers - these could be Gmail or Yahoo. Those mails that don't reach the server are called soft or hard bounces, and these bounces are capable of damaging your sender reputation, so make sure you have to take care of that.
  • Email deliverability — the percentage of delivered emails that end up in the inbox is referred to as email deliverability. Aside from your sender and IP reputations, as well as your authentication records, inbox providers will check how precisely users interact with your electronic content to decide whether your emails end up in the spam folder or the inbox. This way, if your emails have way too many spam complaints, they’ll be unlikely to get into a user’s inbox.

Despite having a low deliverability score, a sender may have a high email delivery rate. Your email can be accepted but instantly moved to the spam folder. One of the most crucial indicators at an organization's disposal is a high deliverability rate or the proportion of times your email is successfully delivered to the inbox of your target audience. On the other hand, a poor implementation may result in low deliverability rates, fewer clients, and a delay in orders or services.

Popular Email Deliverability Issues

Several factors can harm email deliverability, such as missing email authentication, low engagement, or poor email list quality. Improving your email delivery frequently begins with identifying what's wrong, and, quite often, it’s not just one factor determining your deliverability problems. ๐Ÿ”Ž Let’s take a look at some of them.

Spammy content

Spam filters attempt to detect content that violates the policies of email providers. They use algorithms to identify spammers' words or phrases, as well as bad headers and large attachments. And these filters are pretty good, which is why most Gmail spam folders are probably full. 

When sending emails to new recipients, the chance of triggering a spam filter is always higher, so be extra cautious with spam-triggering phrases like "discount," "sale," and "free." In addition to going directly to spam, this can harm your sender reputation if people report your email or delete it without opening it. 

Blocklist providers also have a list of spam traps, which are email addresses, not operated by real users and are intended to catch senders who use poor sending practices. If one of these enters your email database, your emails will be blocked and will not reach their intended recipient.

Clone attacks

Hackers frequently clone a company's display name and forge email headers or messages that appear to be from the company. The goal is to fool your subscribers into thinking they received a legitimate message from a company they know. The message typically contains links or CTAs that direct users to pages where sensitive personal information is requested. 

Clearly, these messages aren't sent from your account, but they can have an impact on the trust subscribers have in your brand ๐Ÿคฏ. It may cause people to delete your legitimate emails without opening them or to mark them as spam. Such actions can lead to a poor sender reputation, which can affect your email deliverability. 

Bad sender reputation

Sender score is among the most crucial engagement metrics. It measures your email sender reputation as well as how email service providers evaluate your IP address. It takes into account factors such as the number of spam complaints, the number of unidentified or inactive subscribers you have on your mailing list, and also whether your domain is present on any blocklists. This way, if you have a low sender score, you almost certainly have an issue with email deliverability. What you can do on your part is maintain email list hygiene, which includes removing inactive email addresses.

Bounce rates

When an email bounces, it means you sent it to an invalid email address and it cannot be delivered because it has nowhere to go. A high email bounce rate can be attributed to one of two factors

  • You're messaging strangers without their permission; 
  • You're not keeping an eye on your email list.

Negative actions of recipients

When the recipient receives your message, you want them to do something with it: open it, click a link in the email, save it for later, or even reply to it. All of these are indicators that your content is relevant. If your message is not opened, is deleted immediately, or is directed to the spam folder, this is a red flag. The recipients’ actions also impact the email engagement rate.

How to improve email deliverability

๐Ÿค” So, how do you ensure that your email is delivered? Fortunately, there are tried-and-true methods for avoiding failures and improving long-term email deliverability rates. This guide provides an overview of the steps that most businesses must take to maximize email deliverability:

  1. Check your email deliverability.
  2. Remove your IP from blacklists.
  3. Create a personal brand.
  4. Proper authentification.
  5. Get in touch with long-forgotten contacts.
  6. Take care of your email lists.
  7. Partnering with credible ESPs (email service providers).
  8. Giving people a choice.
  9. Simplify the unsubscription process.
  10. Say hello to double opt-in.
  11. Pay attention to frequency.
  12. Choose a dedicated IP address.
  13. Enhance your content.
  14. Make sure the link-to-text proportion is equal.
  15. Work on the text-image ratio.
  16. Establish a clear identity.
  17. Launch a campaign for reconfirmation.

Now, let’s get into detail! This is a list of top ways to improve email deliverability on all levels.

Check your email deliverability

Before you do anything else, you should first assess your current situation. You will be able to decide what to do next based on the results of this analysis. 

The majority of email delivery issues are the result of technical issues, such as a faulty connection or a mail server overload. The good news is that email delivery tests are usually unnecessary because mail servers immediately report delivery failures. Things are different when it comes to email deliverability. If you have issues with bad content, dirty mailing lists, poor sender reputation, and other factors, your rate will be low. As a result, you should test your email deliverability regularly.

Begin by assessing your deliverability, as well as the quality of your list and the results of your most recent email campaigns. 

Following a review of these areas, you should be aware of ๐Ÿ’ก: 

  • If your name appears on any of the major blacklists.
  • How engaged your contacts are.
  • If your authentication (SPF, DKIM, DMARC) is properly configured.
  • How many of your contacts are inactive? 
  • How many of your contacts unsubscribe or report your emails as spam? 
  • How your results stack up against the email industry norms.
  • Make a note of your responses because we'll come back to them later in this article.

Pro tip: AI-driven tools like Folderly will do the job in a flash.

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Remove your IP from blacklists

If you discover that your dedicated IP address or mailing domain is listed on any of the major blacklists (you can check this using reputation management tools like MxToolbox), you can contact the list administrator. Ask them for assistance and advice on how to improve your mailing practices, and they will often gladly provide you with additional guidance. Whatever the outcome, there is usually a reason for your blacklisting. If you don't change your processes and how you run your email campaigns, you might find yourself back on that list.

Create a personal brand

One of the most effective ways to increase your email recipients' engagement is to have a strong and distinct brand identity ๐Ÿ’ช. And, because engagement is an important component of email deliverability, consider the following suggestions for improving your brand image

  • Send your email campaigns using your custom domain (without using free email domains — like Gmail);
  • Use the same Email fields (From, Address, and Name) in all of your campaigns;
  • Apply the same design to all of your marketing channels (color scheme, fonts, graphics); 
  • Add your brand's logo to your messages and resort to Brand Indicators for Message Identification.

Proper authentification

Another issue that frequently creates email deliverability concerns - and is easily solved - is authentication. If your emails come as suspicious, Internet Service Providers, such as Gmail or Outlook, may filter or reject them. 

This is mainly related to who or what you are, how you prefer to be sending emails, and what is constituted within them. For the time being, we will only consider the first two factors. 

Here's what you can do to be perceived as a reliable ๐Ÿค sender:

  • Send emails from a company domain rather than a publicly accessible freemail one (like Comcast or Gmail).
  • Opt for authentication protocols such as DomainKeys Identified Mail, Reporting, Sender Policy Framework, Domain-based Message Authentication, and Conformance, and Indicators for Message Identification.

You can improve the reputation of your custom domain by sending email campaigns from it.

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If you follow the best practices in email marketing, you should have a good reputation, which will lead to high deliverability. By correctly configuring the authentication protocols, you'll demonstrate to service providers that you're the legitimate sender and that your marketing emails haven't been hijacked along the way. 

The latter is particularly useful if you use email marketing software to send email campaigns on your behalf. Remember that authentication can improve email deliverability and help you build a good reputation with ISPs.

Get in touch with long-forgotten contacts

You may have identified subscribers who have recently become inactive while evaluating your recipient engagement. These could be people who haven't opened or clicked on any of your messages within the past three months. But they could still be great for your business endeavors if you gave them one more chance.

You should try to re-engage this group because they still have business potential. ๐Ÿ“ฉ The most common method is to launch a win-back campaign. This can be accomplished either manually or automatically.

Take care of your email lists

List hygiene is a critical component of email deliverability. 

To keep your list clean, you must constantly remove the inactive audience and interact with those who are interested

The inactive audience means the following two segments:

  • The first group — consists of individuals who have specifically stated that they no longer wish to receive emails from you, or whose email addresses have bounced. They should be removed from your list right away, regardless of how large that segment is. 
  • The second group is those who haven't engaged with your communication in a long time make up the second group (e.g., a year or so). Most of the time, these contacts have no commercial potential. They do, however, pose a significant risk to your deliverability. 

One reason could be that these addresses have been turned into spam traps or honey pots as they are also known. The second reason is that they may be affecting your outcomes.

Partnering with credible ESPs (email service providers)

A good email service provider is distinguished by more than just its email templates, features, and user experience. A dependable ESP will also assist you in maintaining a high email delivery rate ๐Ÿ“ˆ

If you're not sure if your current email marketing platform is the right one for you, look to see if it: 

  • Has connections with all of the major Internet Service Providers;
  • Has established feedback loops with all of the major mailbox providers; 
  • Bounces, unsubscribes, and spam complaints are handled automatically; 
  • Users are not permitted to upload purchased or scraped lists;
  • Participates in all major ISP industry spam prevention initiatives, such as MAAWG, EEC, and ESPC;
  • Is following all major regulations, including CanSPAM, CASL, GDPR, and CCPA;
  • Allows you to verify your custom mailing domain;
  • SPF and DKIM authentication is used to validate your emails;
  • Has strong delivery and compliance teams on board;
  • Uses high-quality IP addresses and artificial intelligence to identify potential email deliverability issues; 
  • Gives you the Data Processing Agreement;
  • Has servers in the country of your choice; 
  • Guarantees your data’s safety; 
  • Its tools are regularly updated to meet the most recent industry standards; 
  • Has a good and established market reputation.

What else? You have to give your recipients a choice.

Giving people a choice

Another way to reduce email list churn and improve email deliverability is to grant your users a choice. In fact, marketers have long recognized the importance of personalizing the customer experience.

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However, they rarely do this when it comes to the frequency and content of their email campaigns. As a result, your open rate is quite low.

Consider creating a preference center or including additional checkboxes in your web forms to allow your contacts to express their mailing preferences if you want to provide a better experience than most email marketers. You could also include it on your unsubscribe page so that your customers can opt down instead of opting out of your email subscription. 

While this step ๐Ÿ‘ฃ may appear difficult to realize, it allows you to keep your customers engaged for a longer period. Furthermore, it gives them the impression that they have full control of the situation, which can improve their perception of your brand. 

Simplify the unsubscription process

This may seem illogical, but people unsubscribing from you isn't a big deal. How so? Simply because that also means they're getting your emails, they're just not interested in them. 

The issue arises when they are not unsubscribing but instead filtering out your mails or, worse, submitting them as spam. The two significant challenges, but if you followed our advice in #5, you should have handled those who gave up reading your messages by this point. When it comes to spam claims, the situation is way more difficult because it necessitates changes in several places.

First and foremost, you should go over your subscription process to ensure that everything is transparent and clear. Your contacts must fully comprehend what they are signing up for and the content you will send them. Include this information on your landing pages, web forms, thank you pages, and in the footers of your emails. 

Second, make it easier to unsubscribe from your list. In most cases, it is sufficient if the unsubscribe process does not require additional steps, such as logging into your platform, and the removal link is easily accessible in your emails. In extreme cases, move your unsubscribe link above the fold, possibly even into the preheader.

From the standpoint of a marketer, this may not appear to be ideal. When you consider that spam reports affect your deliverability - both now and in the future - having more unsubscribes doesn't seem like such a bad idea.

Say hello to double opt-in

For years, people have been debating whether to use double opt-in or single opt-in. 

It all boils down to this: 

  • You will get a higher quality list if you use double opt-in, but it will be smaller. According to our observations, you may see a 30% decrease in subscriptions; 
  • While single opt-in gives you more contacts to reach out to, the people who sign up are unlikely to be as engaged. 

So, how should you approach this?

Do your homework and count. However, keep the following in mind ๐Ÿง 

  • According to the findings of our Email Marketing Benchmarks report, industries that use double opt-in have the highest email engagement rates
  • If you're having deliverability issues or seeing a large number of bots sign up through your web forms, using double opt-in is recommended;
  • If someone ever questions how you collect email consent, double opt-in provides additional proof that your contacts made a deliberate decision to join your list.

Pay attention to frequency

Email frequency is critical for increasing customer engagement and email deliverability. This is why. If you haven't contacted your subscribers in a long time and then send them an email blast, they may perceive it as irrelevant or even unsolicited. This can result in a high number of spam complaints (we’ll emphasize one more time: by all means, you should avoid spam complaints). 

When you send too many emails, your recipients may become overwhelmed and irritated. If you're fortunate, they'll unsubscribe. If you aren't, your messages will be filtered or reported as spam. In other words, communication schedules that are too quiet or too busy are both bad. So, how frequently should you email your list? Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule for this. 

There are several methods for determining the appropriate email frequency. Some are more scientific in nature, focusing on increasing the number of conversions. Others include soliciting feedback from your customers or providing them with the option to manage their mailing preferences.

Choose a dedicated IP address

๐Ÿ“จ If you send email campaigns through email marketing software, you're most likely using a shared IP solution. While that is the best approach for most marketers, there are some drawbacks. 

A shared IP solution provides more flexibility and more stable deliverability for marketers with smaller email lists. They, for example, do not need to be as conscientious about their email schedule or engagement rates. Because all marketers who use these IPs to send emails contribute to the IP reputation. At the same time, if these IPs are also used by some careless email marketers, their actions may have an impact on the deliverability of everyone else who uses the same IPs to send their emails. Obviously, the platform Compliance and Deliverability Teams are in place to prevent and correct such issues. However, there is always a risk that you must be aware of. 

Another option is to use a dedicated IP address. This is typically reserved for larger email senders with large email lists (i.e., 100,000+ records) and a consistent communication schedule. The main distinction is that when you use a dedicated IP address, you are the only one who is establishing its reputation. 

Other distinctions exist between shared and dedicated IPs

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The bottom line is that if you're a consistent sender and know that using a dedicated IP solution could improve your email deliverability, you should investigate it.

Enhance your content

We have already discussed how subscriber engagement affects your reputation and email deliverability. We recommended reconnecting with and removing inactive contacts from your lists. However, we did not discuss how to keep your audience - or at least a portion of it - active. 

One method is to keep improving your email content. Your emails should always be interesting, engaging, and valuable ๐Ÿ“. Although it is easier said than done, here is a decent marketing strategy for keeping your email content engaging:

  • A/B tests your messages frequently to find the most engaging subject lines, headlines, products, and articles. 
  • Request feedback from your audience and suggestions for future communication topics. 
  • Examine the click-through data in your emails to identify the most effective calls to action (CTAs) and topics. 
  • Analyze your website's Google Analytics reports for pageview data and time on page to direct visitors to the best-performing pages.

Remember that the best way to A/B test your emails is to:

  1. test one thing at a time,
  2. run tests continuously rather than ad hoc,
  3. consider them an evolution rather than a revolution. 

This way, you'll know which parts of your message were effective, and you'll give your recipients enough time to adjust to the changes. The last thing you want to do is perplex those who are actively participating in your communication.

Make sure the link-to-text proportion is equal

You may never encounter this issue, but it is surely worth mentioning. The balance between the amount of text and the number of links is one of the factors ISPs consider when assessing email quality.

The thing is that the text-to-link ๐Ÿ“Ž percentage must be relatable to provide good content value to your contacts. Usually, sending only clickable links is not one of them. SPs will allow fewer links from a domain with a bad reputation that is already associated with abuse mailing than they would from a good reputation domain. Furthermore, even the good ones appear to be limited.

The formula is pretty simple. Stick to one link per paragraph or a single link for a short message (a few lines of text). ISPs appear to rarely penalize senders for these types of links (if they do, it's usually due to a domain reputation issue), so if that's your business, there’s nothing to be concerned about. If you do advertise products to your list, keep the calls to action to a minimum. Usually, two strategically placed links suffice.

Work on the text-image ratio

When forming emails, consider how much of your message is made up of text and pictures. The more text you have, the better your deliverability will be. This is not to say that images should not be included in your emails. That is not viable, and no e-commerce company would permit it. However, your message should not be limited to a single large picture and a footer. 

Consider this practice from the standpoint of both ISPs and recipients. Numerous people utilize inbox providers that automatically block images. People respond to their first impression, and if all they see is an email with most of its content censored, they are unlikely to open it. As a result, including text in your emails can help you improve deliverability and engagement rates.

Establish a clear identity

It is vital to speak as an identified brand and individual. Emails that appear exciting, useful, or entertaining are opened. People also consider the sender, including whether they are reliable, credible, and competent. You must pay attention to all of these aspects throughout the customer journey. You don't want your customers to feel alienated as they move from your social media page to your official website and finally to your email subscription

๐Ÿ“ Here are some best practices to take into account:

  • Don't change the sender's name and email address too frequently. 
  • Maintain a unified brand identity across all of your marketing channels. 
  • Keep your email template changes as minimal as possible so that people identify you.

If you're an individual entrepreneur, you could also try sending emails under your name rather than the brand name. The theory here is that users are more inclined to form bonds with real people than with mythical companies. However, this strategy will only work if you stick with it and don't just use it only once in a while. If you complete this step successfully, your audience will be more committed to your conversation, which will improve your email deliverability.

Launch a campaign for reconfirmation

If everything else fails, you still have one last option: reconfirmation. Reconfirmation campaigns are comparable to re-engagement projects. 

After you've completed a re-engagement initiative, you still have the option of deciding what to do with those who haven't reacted to your messages. Although we recommend eliminating them from your lists permanently, if you have this type of data, you may want to attempt re-engaging with them through retargeting advertisements or even phone calls. There is no turning back with reconfirmation campaigns. 

๐Ÿ‘‰ This is how they work:

  • You first recognize non-active contacts and afterward send them an email, requesting to join your list;
  • You're not requesting them to stay on your list; rather, you're asking if they want to re-subscribe;
  • Anyone who does not reply to this signal should be instantly deleted from your database;
  • Those who answer should be added to your active contact list and contacted to find out what made them so passive for so long;
  • This is the best method for ensuring that your list is pure. It is, of course, risky, which is why many marketers save it for the last minute.

Hopefully, these email deliverability tips have helped you understand how to take your deliverability to the next level. Improving email deliverability may seem hard at a first glance, but it’s a piece of cake. So follow the advice in this piece and you’ll have more emails successfully delivered to your audience without having to spend a fortune on your campaigns.

Vladislav Podolyako
Author:
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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