Reaching the Inbox, Part 2 – factors that impact email deliverability

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As discussed in ‘Reaching the Inbox, Part 1 – Why not all emails get delivered‘, an email is successfully delivered when your message arrives in the inbox of the intended recipient.

This may sound obvious, but unfortunately delivery is never guaranteed, even when you have the recipient’s correct email address, and that recipient has opted in to receive your marketing communications.

In fact, according to an Email Deliverability Benchmark Report by ReturnPath, more than 1 in 5 opt-in emails never make it to the inbox.

So what can marketers do to increase the number of emails reaching their recipients’ inboxes?

Understanding the factors that impact email deliverability is a useful step to the primary objective – getting more emails delivered to recipients’ inboxes.

The top things marketers can to do to help with this include:

I.   Be consistent. Perhaps the best thing you can do to build and maintain a good sender reputation is to send a similar volume of emails on a regular schedule. Think of it a bit like a credit card – if you never use it then splash out on a big-ticket item, the credit card company might block the transaction. If you use it regularly, however, then that big-ticket item is seen as part of your wider purchasing behaviour and less likely to get red-flagged.

II.   Be personal. Opening an email sends strong positive signals to email providers, which makes the ‘From’ name a critical element of your email campaigns.

Make sure the Sender Name that recipients see in their inbox is personal (eg, John Smith) rather than impersonal (eg, [email protected]), and is one that your recipients recognise.

III.  Be relevant. Sending relevant and interesting content that people want to read is the basis of a great sending (and brand) reputation. Segment your audience and tailor your emails to each segment, rather than sending the same email to your entire list.

More relevant and engaging content will drive the kind of positive behaviour the ISPs (and you) are looking for. You’ll increase the number of recipients opening your emails and decrease the number of people deleting them, sending positive signals to email providers about the validity of your campaigns.

IV.  Be open. A key signal for ESPs is whether you receive replies to your emails. So make it easy for people to respond by using a real reply-to address in your emails.

Avoid using reply-to email addresses such as [email protected]. Email addresses like this tell people you are not interested in hearing from them, which reduces the amount of responses you get, which in turn reduces your sender reputation.

V.   Be open (2). Make it easy for recipients, email providers and ISPs to know who you are as a business.

When sending emails via an ESP, be sure to use a domain address owned by you and that your recipients expect to hear from, rather than a generic domain provided by the ESP.

This helps prevent ISP filters from blocking your emails, will also be recognisable to your recipients and help build your sending domain reputation.

Not all ESPs offer this facility, and the generic domain may be the default for those that do. Make sure your provider allows you to send from your own domain name (i.e.

Spammers rarely do this, so you send a strong signal to email providers that you are a legitimate business sending legitimate emails.

VI.  Stay clean. Using clean data is an obvious way to reduce reputational risks, so ensure your data is up-to-date data, remove unsubscribes and hard bounces.

Also, avoid spam traps – email addresses set up typically by ISPs to catch spammers. Sending to just one spam trap will impact your reputation and cause deliverability problems. Why? Because it suggests you or your list supplier harvest emails (scraping emails from websites), which may be illegal depending on your jurisdiction. Either way, it isn’t good for your reputation and your email deliverability will decline.

VII. Be authentic. One of the surest ways to avoid being perceived as a spammer is to authenticate your emails.

Authentication is an “ID check” that determines the email is really from you, and not a spammer impersonating you. Authentication does not guarantee email deliverability, but helps ISPs to differentiate your legitimate business emails from other illegitimate ones.

While the precise details of authentication are not covered here, it may help you to know there are two main methods of authentication that you should implement:

Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM)

Sender Policy Framework (SPF)

In ‘Reaching the Inbox, Part 3 – Understanding Bounce Backs‘ we will look at how to interpret the feedback you get from your email service provider.

Meet The Author

Kevin Savage

Former VP of Sales & Marketing at Yankee Group with research expertise for the technology sector Previously: Successfully growing new data and analytics markets for CEB/Gartner as well as Communispace, Jupiter Research, Forrester Research.

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