Email Delivery vs. Email Deliverability: Key Differences Uncovered

Email Delivery vs. Email Deliverability: Key Differences Uncovered

Vladyslav Podoliako
Apr 10, 2023
Reading duration
15 min

Email deliverability and delivery are concepts that are frequently used interchangeably.  But it's super important to know the difference between these terms, so you will know how to test email deliverability and delivery and get the right results.

If you are looking for a quick answer, email deliverability is basically how many of your emails actually end up in the inbox, while email delivery is just about how many messages didn't bounce back. Basically, if your message hits the spam folder, it still has a high delivery rate (because it wasn't bounced) but a low deliverability rate (because it hasn't landed in the inbox). 

But if you want to dive in and understand all the key differences between email delivery and deliverability, along with common myths and small tips to improve email deliverability and delivery, then we've got you covered! 

By the end of this article, you will never puzzle over these two concepts again.

The Article Walkthrough:

📖 Definitions and primary goals
🔢 Formulas to measure both
🎯 Key factors affecting email delivery vs. email deliverability
📈 Impact on email campaign performance
🚀 Optimization strategies to improve both
🛠️ Tools to measure both
💡 Relationship between both
🤔 Myth vs. Reality: 7 Misconceptions About Email Deliverability And Email Delivery

Email Deliverability vs. Email Delivery: What’s the Difference

By gaining a thorough understanding of each criterion, you will be equipped with the knowledge to confidently distinguish between the two terms and use them appropriately in the future. 

Definitions and primary goals 

Definitions & Goals
Email Delivery Email Deliverability

The process of an email being successfully sent and accepted by the recipient's email server.

The primary objective is to ensure that emails are successfully transmitted, in a timely manner, from the sender's server to the recipient's server.

The likelihood of an email reaching the recipient's inbox without being marked as spam or promotional content.

The primary objective is to ensure that emails reach recipients' inboxes and go through spam filters.

Email delivery

Email delivery is a communication process between the sending and receiving servers, while the latter decides whether to accept or reject the incoming message.

Its primary objective is to ensure accurate delivery—the message should be delivered to the sender’s server instead of being bounced. Also, it strives to ensure timely delivery (the message should be delivered ASAP without potential delays or being lost in transit).

Email deliverability

The most straightforward email deliverability definition would be to state that it is a process of determining inbox placement. After the message is accepted for delivery, the email deliverability rate will indicate whether an email will end up in the primary inbox or the spam/promotions folder.

Its primary objectives include successful inbox placement and spam filter avoidance.  

Formulas to measure both

Formulas to Measure
Email Delivery Email Deliverability
Pics 11 Pics 22

Email delivery

Let’s say you send 1000 emails, and 60 of them get into the inbox. Then, your delivery rate would be 94%:


While delivery rate measures the percentage of emails that were successfully delivered to the recipient's email server, bounce rate measures the percentage of emails that were not delivered to the recipient's inbox and were returned to the sender. The average email bounce rate across all industries is 0.3%.

However, before you get disappointed about the benchmark, you should also know that the average bounce rate (and, in turn, email delivery rate) in some industries is higher:

  • Architecture and Construction — 1, 32% bounce rate
  • Agency  — 0.76% bounce rate
  • Medical, Dental, and Healthcare — 0.67% bounce rate

Email deliverability

Let’s say you send 120 emails, and 93 of them get into the inbox. Then, your inbox placement rate (or deliverability) would be 77.5%:


The recent tests have shown that the average deliverability rate of all ESPs (email service providers) is between 83 and 89%. However, it would significantly depend on service. For instance, ActiveCampaign is associated with the #1 spot in this study, with 93% average deliverability rate, and Mailchimp has won the second place with 92.7% average deliverability rate.

The study concludes that:

  • Anything over 89% can be considered a strong email deliverability rate
  • Anything above 95% is an excellent email deliverability rate
  • Anything below 80% is an email deliverability rate that needs to be improved ASAP

There are also many answers to the question "Why do my emails go to spam," sometimes non-intuitive ones. Like every round, the mentioned study demonstrates that it’s important to have strong knowledge of how to check email deliverability and compare your deliverability rates to the benchmarks. You can do it manually or get the helping hand of such advanced tools as Folderly for throughout insights.

Key factors affecting email delivery vs. email deliverability 

Primary affecting factors

Email Delivery Email Deliverability
  • ISPs and MTAs
  • Email server settings and loads
  • IP address reputation
  • Hardware error
  • Bounce rates (soft and hard bounces)
  • Irregular list hygiene
  • Sender reputation
  • Email Authentication (SPF, DKIM, DMARC)
  • Content quality and relevance
  • Engagement rate
  • Poor segmentation
  • Bad mailing list quality
  • Inadequate email volumes

Email delivery

  • ISPs and MTAs. A trustworthy and reputable mail transfer agent reacts to a suspicious email by temporarily blocking it. If the sender proves to be reliable, they will try to deliver the message again, but the delay will affect the delivery.
  • Email server settings and loads. Every email has to pass through various servers before it reaches the destination. Sometimes, servers crush, and there's little you can do to prevent that, but the initiated delivery will be delayed due to the mentioned crush.
  • IP address reputation. The reputation of your IP address can impact email delivery. If your IP address is associated with spam or other malicious activities, it may be blacklisted, leading to poor delivery rates.
  • Hardware error. When a sending mailbox runs out of network bandwidth, storage, or memory, a message won't be delivered.
  • Bounces management. Both soft and hard email bounces affect the delivery rates. Managing bounced emails is critical for successful email delivery. While you can do little about soft bounces, you may want to pay a little more attention to the notion of hard bounces as you start to notice them.
  • Irregular list hygiene. Email marketing databases naturally degrade by about 22.5% yearly. As a result — your email never gets delivered.

Email deliverability

Recent research shows that as much as 20% of your email marketing ventures go to waste. All due to the fact that your emails hit the spam folder instead of the primary one. What can lead to that? The list of reasons is more extensive than you think:

  • Sender reputation. Internet Service Providers react negatively to senders with low reputation scores. The reputation rates vary between 0-100. The higher the number, the better your reputation and the higher the chances of hitting the primary inbox. But there are always ways to improve sender reputation.
  • Email Authentication. Email authentication technologies such as SPF, DKIM, and DMARC help verify that an email is sent from a legitimate source. Proper implementation of these technologies increases the likelihood of an email being delivered to the recipient's inbox.
  • Content quality and relevance. 69% of recipients mark emails as spam based on the subject line solely.  Your email content is also a King when it comes to email deliverability. Avoiding spam trigger words and using clear and concise language can improve deliverability.
  • Engagement rate. The higher the complaint level is, the more likely your emails will end up in the spam folder. The same goes for positive or negative user feedback that most ESPs derive from Click-Through-Rates (CTR) and open rates.
  • Poor segmentation. Generic and one-for-all emails are the simplest way to ruin your deliverability score. Unsegmented campaigns lead to a drop in open rates. Thus – deliverability rates decrease.
  • Bad mailing list quality. Pre-purchased sending lists are usually filled with low-quality and inactive email addresses. Targeting those emails will bring you the most undesirable results.
  • Inadequate email volumes. The rule "the more, the better" rarely applies to email marketing campaigns. In fact, ESPs tend to over-check those senders who send large bulks of emails too often, especially without a proper warm-up session.
  • User engagement. The higher the complaint level is, the more likely your emails will end up in the spam folder. The same goes for positive or negative user feedback that most ESPs derive from Click-Through-Rates (CTR) and open rates.

Impact on email campaign performance

Impact on Email Campaign
Email Delivery Email Deliverability
Ensures that a larger number of recipients receive the email, increasing the chances of engagement. Ensures high open and click-through rates, leading to better engagement and conversion.

Email delivery

As your email delivery rates continue to drop, major ESPs will view it as the result of a poor or potentially spam-oriented marketing strategy. As a consequence, your messages may be delivered to the spam folder or blocked altogether, even when you target the inboxes of your most loyal and interested clients.

If that isn't enough, poor delivery scores will affect engagement rates, CTRs, and sales. Effective email delivery is critical for the campaign's success, but it is only one piece of the puzzle.

Email deliverability

The email deliverability ensures that the campaign:

  • Reaches the target audience;
  • Spices engagement rates;
  • Improves and protects the sender's reputation;
  • Saves marketing effort and resources;
  • Helps to achieve key KPIs for email marketing.

Simply put, each metric is vital for various reasons, but they will bring the most to the campaign when well-synchronized.

Optimization strategies to improve both

Optimization Strategies To Improve the Metrics
Email Delivery Both Email Deliverability
  • Using a reputable Email Service Provider (ESP)
  • Reducing bounce rates immediately
  • Ensuring proper server configuration
  • Ensuring emails comply with the CAN-SPAM Act or other relevant legislation
  • Setting the right domain authentication
  • Cleaning email lists regularly
  • Testing inbox placement rates
  • Personalizing email content
  • Double opt-in and list segmentation
  • A/B testing
  • Smart frequency
  • Simple opt-outs
  • Sender name consistency

Email delivery

  • Using a reputable email service provider. As the research shows, the choice of your ESP highly affects bounce rates. A dedicated email service provider increases your chances of getting into the user's inbox. Yet, it takes a fair share of research to find the fittest option since plenty of fish is in the sea.
  • Reducing bounce rates on time. Another essential way to optimize your delivery stats is to address detected bounces as soon as they come up, especially when it comes to hard bounces.
  • Ensuring proper server configuration. Proper server configuration is a critical component of email delivery optimization. By ensuring that your email server is properly configured, you can significantly improve your email delivery.

Email deliverability

  • Personalizing email content. The more value an incoming email contains, the better the reaction to it will be on the server's and the reader's parts. The rule applies not only to the text but also to the message's general layout and user-oriented design. Keep that in mind.
  • Double opt-in and list segmentation. The more active and relevant email addresses you gather – the better. A double opt-in feature ensures that fewer uninterested and unengaged users are added to your mailing list, since those who don't care about your service won't go as far as to double-confirm their credentials. A segmented list with a personalized approach based on the group's needs and preferences decreases the bounce rate and enhances deliverability stats.
  • A/B testing. Some email templates perform better than the rest for various reasons, and that is a fact. Many A/B testing tools can help you determine which emails are better delivered and which spike improved user reaction.
  • Smart frequency. A new IP address or domain name initiating a mass email session will raise a fair share of suspicion from the spam filters. Thus, gradually increasing your email marketing campaigns, aka warming the domain and IP up, is what you must consider.
  • Simple opt-outs. As your subscribers change their minds about your services or no longer need them, they should be allowed to unsubscribe. A simple and well-noticeable opt-out feature will save you a lot of undesirable spam reports and keep your deliverability stats up. 
  • Sender name consistency. As your clients get used to your brand name, they will seek it out from the piles of emails littering their inboxes. However, playing around with your sender name will be challenging to keep up with the changes. Sender name consistency will keep your deliverability scores unchanged, whereas constant changes between names will increase spam reports.

Email delivery & deliverability

  • Ensuring emails comply with the CAN-SPAM Act or other relevant legislation. The CAN-SPAM Act is a law that sets the rules for commercial email and gives recipients the right to opt out of receiving emails. It's important to ensure that your emails respect email compliance to avoid penalties and maintain a good sender reputation. 
  • Setting the right domain authentication. Setting up domain authentication protocols like SPF, DKIM, and DMARC can help authenticate your emails and prevent them from being flagged as spam. SPF ensures that your email came from an authorized server, DKIM provides a digital signature to verify the authenticity of an email message, and DMARC allows you to specify how ISPs should handle messages that fail authentication.
  • Choosing the right email protocols. SMTP, POP3, and IMAP are like the unsung heroes of the email world. Each protocol, designed with distinct goals in mind, orchestrates a seamless behind-the-scenes performance every time you hit "Send." While they may seem similar, which one is better — imap vs pop3 or imap vs smtp — will depend on your goals and email outreach characteristics.
  • Cleaning email lists regularly. Regularly cleaning your email list from inactive and spam signups is important to ensure you're only sending emails to valid and engaged subscribers. Removing invalid or inactive email addresses can help reduce bounce rates and improve your sender's reputation. Additionally, removing unengaged subscribers can help increase your open rates and reduce the likelihood of your emails being marked as spam.
  • Regular email deliverability check. Testing your inbox placement rates can help you understand how ISPs are treating your emails and identify any issues with deliverability. You can use email deliverability tools for high-quality email deliverability monitoring to quickly test your inbox placement rates and identify issues with your email content, sender reputation, or authentication.

Tools to measure both

While you can manually calculate your email marketing delivery rate, there's a fair share of reliable email deliverability tools that can help you automate the process. Moreover, countless email deliverability tools carry out more than one function and can provide results sufficient for both – delivery improvement and deliverability spike.

  • Folderly – a full-cycle deliverability solution designed to ensure 100% inbox placement of your marketing campaign. The service covers every deliverability aspect starting with domain authentication and ending with advising on perfect content creation.
  • SendPost – a potent all-in-one tool aimed at successfully delivering and optimizing your marketing campaign.
  • – a great sales automation tool with outstanding warm-up features aimed at improved deliverability rates.  
  • SpamCheck – a platform developed to analyze email content and provide potential deliverability results based on the content evaluation.
  • Litmus – a trusted marketing service that features a reliable email deliverability test to point you in the right direction as to where you are at with the inbox placement currently.
  • Mail-tester – a free deliverability platform that determines your emails' mailbox placement.
  • MxToolbox – a deliverability service with an in-depth focus on the authentication part of your mailing campaign.
  • SenderScore – based on your bounce rate, the service will derive your sender reputation stats.
  • GlockApps – while the service is impressively multi-layered, it is one of the tools designed to provide a real-time report on how many of your emails reach the user's mailbox.
  • NeverBounce – as the name has it, the solution is about the validity of your mailing lists. The tool will scan your mailing list, detecting and deleting inactive or obsolete email addresses so your campaign does not suffer a high bounce rate.

Relationship between both

Email delivery is a prerequisite for email deliverability. 

While email delivery ensures that your email can be sent and received by the recipient's email server, email deliverability focuses on optimizing the email to reach the recipient's inbox and avoid being marked as spam.

High email delivery alone doesn’t ensure the success of your email marketing campaign. Your messages can still land in spam or promotional folders and never be noticed by recipients.

Pics 3

Both metrics are essential for a successful email marketing campaign. These notions should be honed together with equal attention to each to reap the juiciest fruit of your email marketing efforts.

Myth vs. Reality:  7 Misconceptions About Email Deliverability And Email Delivery

At times, email marketing campaigns suffer not from a lack of effort aimed at improving strategies, but simply because you are barking up the wrong tree. As the competition grows fiercer and email outreach trends change in a matter of secondsmore and more myths are let into the world to confuse you. It is time to separate myths from reality!

Myth 1: High delivery rate can ensure a high deliverability rate

Reality: High email delivery rates are critical to ensuring that your messages get to the user's mailbox in the first place. However, successful delivery does not mean the message ends up in the primary folder, where the recipient can see it. Instead, even if delivery rate is high, an email may land in the spam box

Myth 2: Email deliverability is solely about avoiding spam filters

Reality: Staying clear of spam filters is one of the vital pillars of successful email deliverability. Yet, there is more where that comes from. It takes the quality and relevance of the shared content, consistent sending practices, proper email authentication, and sender reputation to ensure high email deliverability.


Myth 3: Sender reputation only affects email deliverability

Reality: Simply put, sender reputation affects both email delivery rate and email deliverability. As your sender reputation drops, your emails will head straight to the spam folder. The longer the issue persists, the higher the chances are that mailbox providers will block your emails altogether.

Myth 4: The email delivery rate is the same as the bounce rate

Reality: Although the notions are closely related, they define two different metrics. With delivery rate meaning the number of emails accepted by the recipient server, the bounce rate is the number of emails rejected in the delivery process. While the bounce rate directly impacts the delivery score, it is essential to monitor both metrics separately and address each when the need arises.

Myth 5: Bounce rates only impact email delivery

Reality: Bounces are a clear indicator that there is something wrong with your mailing list. Thus, a high bounce rate will equally negatively affect your delivery, deliverability, and sender score.

Myth 6: Unsubscribe rates have no impact on email delivery

Reality: Indeed, unsubscribe rates do not directly affect email delivery, per se. However, if the unsubscribe rates spike, it means that people aren't interested in your content, or they find it irrelevant or worse. Major ESPs keep an open eye for such stats, and when they reach the crescendo, the mailbox provider may reject your messages altogether, labeling you as a potential spammer.

Myth 7: Mailability can be used interchangeably with deliverability

Reality: These are two completely different concepts. Mailability defines the technical characteristics of an email, stating whether it can be sent. At the same time, deliverability is responsible for ensuring that the well-composed, properly-formatted, and relevant email ends up in the user's primary inbox.

GetProspect - Email Address Search

Now, after we've discussed the difference between email delivery and email deliverability, it's worth to mention a tool that helps to clean your email list and, as a result, positively affect both email delivy and email deliverability.

GetProspect email finder is a valuable tool for outreach that helps to find the email addresses of potential customers and simplify the process of contacting them. This product is designed for marketers, salespeople, and business development professionals who are looking for new opportunities to grow their business.

Screenshot 2023 06 21 at 16.33.42

By using GetProspect, you get a number of such benefits:

  • Integration with 2000+ services. You can connect your prospecting process to your favorite marketing tools: Pipedrive, Hubspot, SalesForce, MailChimp, etc.

  • Data enrichment. Find contacts of all employees by company name or domain.

  • Bulk email search. Gather an impressive database of business email addresses in a couple of minutes. Upload the information you have about your prospects and complete it with real email addresses.

  • You pay only for unique contacts. Duplicate contacts and unverified emails are removed for free. You'll get refined data for your sales pipeline with our lead generator and search tools.


GetProspect offers several premium plans, so you can choose what works best for you:

Free - 50 emails per month

49$ - 1000 emails per month

99$ - 5000 emails per month

199$ - 20,000 emails per month

399$ - 50,000 emails per month

Customer ratings

GetProspect also has an impressive 4.8/5 rating among its users. This indicates the high quality and customer satisfaction with the product.

Users praise GetProspect for its reliability, accuracy, and speed of collecting emails. They note that the product helps them save the time and effort that they used to spend on manual information searches. In addition, users are satisfied with GetProspect's ease of use and intuitive interface.

Conclusion: Excellent Email Delivery + Optimized Email Deliverability = Success of Your Campaign

A successful email marketing campaign relies on a variety of different aspects, but email delivery combined with email deliverability will predetermine its potential success. 

While the notions comprise numerous features, metrics, and stats, they aren't mutually exclusive. With a holistic and well-rounded approach to your marketing campaign, you can release the full potential of this potent communication channel. The approach, in turn, will drive user engagement, cement customer relations, and boost the desired bottom line.

Folderly experts are experienced in presenting a complex, individual, and highly professional approach to skyrocketing email deliverability. The best opportunities in the email marketing world are within a single click!

Vladyslav Podoliako
Vladyslav Podoliako
Founder & CEO
Vlad is a Founder & CEO of Belkins and Folderly, a series entrepreneur and investor with over ten years of management expertise in companies with 100 million evaluation. Vlad has years of experience building and growing service companies and SaaS startups in SalesTech and MarTech. He is skilled in creating successful businesses from the ground up and building top-notch teams that drive all ventures to the top of their industries.

Also you may like

Email Spam Filters 101: Types & How To Use Them Wisely
Email Spam Filters 101: Types & How To Use Them Wisely

Spam filters are scary. Sometimes it feels like they do everything possible to destroy your outreach. However, this isn’t true. Spam filters exist to protect your outreach. Your goal is to prove that you’re a legitimate sender. Discover the intricacies of email spam filters, how they work, and quick steps for bypassing them like a pro in this article.

Gain complete control of your emails placement by monitoring and fixing all email deliverability issues as soon as they come up. Up to 99.9% email deliverability.