Learn about optimizing email deliverability

Your marketing message won’t meet your goals if your emails don’t make it into your subscribers’ inboxes. Learn how to successfully deliver emails to the subscribers who want to read them.

Email deliverability is the single most critical factor to the success of your email campaigns. You spend a lot of time and resources crafting the right message and then sending it to the right audience. All that effort goes to waste if your message never reaches its destination. Successful email deliverability depends on a combination of best practices, email authentication, and reputation.
Learning how to optimize your email deliverability will benefit your campaigns and programs by demonstrating how to create an interesting subject line, avoid being sent to spam, and better engage your customers.
Email deliverability is the ability of an email message to reach the intended recipient’s inbox. This ability is affected by spam filters, client-side filters, and junk folders. So what we are really talking about is the rate of successful deliverability in which the recipient does not report the email as spam or unsubscribe. There’s no question that email software and the people who use it are getting better at filtering out spam. While this makes it easier for engaging emails to get through, without a strong focus on deliverability, sometimes even quality, permission-based emails can get filtered out of your subscribers’ inboxes. Email deliverability is more and more about your reputation as a sender and less about the actual content of your emails. This does not mean that content is not important, but it does mean that marketers need to give plenty of attention to how their email campaigns are being delivered.
Address quality and spam filtering are two major factors that affect email deliverability. Most address quality issues are easily managed through effective address verification and by maintaining a healthy marketing database. Check out our module on maintaining a healthy marketing database to learn more.
Email is still a very effective tool for most companies and is heavily relied on. However, the only way your emails get seen, opened, and clicked on, is if they’ve reached their intended target. One out of every five emails sent never reaches the subscriber’s primary inbox. When you apply that percentage to the total number of emails you send, you can end up with a lot of wasted opportunities. Conversely, improving your email deliverability can have a big impact on revenue. Think of what just a 1% change in email deliverability could do to your ROI. For example, for the top 10 internet retailers, an 8% increase in message deliverability would yield more than $13 billion in revenue.
Most email applications use algorithms to compare all incoming emails to those marked as junk. Any email with a similar sender, links, or content is more likely to be considered spam. A spam trap is an inactive deliverable email address owned by an ISP that is used to identify and block unsolicited emails from spammers. To keep your emails out of spam traps, you need to be diligent about your email list building or you could severely hurt your deliverability and send a reputation. Worse, your IP address could be put on a black list, an online database of spam senders. Your provider is responsible for making sure it’s email technology is up to date and compliant with current legal requirements. This means it must optimize the back end of its delivery platform for reduced friction with corporate filtering systems. ISP and email receiving systems are moving away from standard email address validation and are now using their own custom bounce codes. Modern email marketing service providers need to know what all the different new bounce codes mean so they can properly process soft and hard bounces while giving senders the visibility they need to manage their email campaigns. A soft bounce is typically a temporary issue and multiple attempts will be made to deliver the email until either the deliverability issue is resolved or the email is finally considered a hard bounce. A hard bounce means that your email was permanently undeliverable and no further attempts could be made. These are some of the possible reasons the delivery did not occur. Email invalid indicates the email address doesn’t exist. Spam block occurs when the receiving inbox considers the email as unsolicited or inappropriate. Technical, when some kind of technical issue has occurred somewhere between the sender and the recipient.
A modern email marketing service provider will allow you to segment your contact lists into sub-lists so that you can target specific customers with specific messages. As a sender, you must keep your list clean, take the time to understand your audience, and craft carefully targeted messages that are relevant to specific subscriber sub-lists. We haven’t talked much about the actual content of your emails. This is not because content is meaningless. It’s just that reputation and engagement matter more. The rules of content are ever changing. It used to be that if your emails included certain trigger words, such as “free,” there was a pretty good chance they would never reach the inbox. But now the rules are more sophisticated. You are ultimately responsible for what you send and to whom it’s sent. Corporate email systems keep a close eye on how the subscribers under their watch are interacting with your emails. If you send relevant messages to a willing opt-in list, you’ll build a good deliverability reputation. If you don’t, your reputation will suffer.
You should take the following proactive steps to give your emails the best chance of hitting the inbox. Follow the trust and engagement mantra. Give your subscribers a good reason to opt in and set clear expectations about what’s to come. Then follow through on your promises with timely, targeted, valuable emails. Use responsible methods to build your lists. Verify all new email addresses before sending your messages, and regularly scrub your contact list to remove inactive addresses. Choose a solid email marketing service provider. Make sure the vendor you choose is sophisticated enough to handle bounce codes, feedback loops, and connection optimization. Create engaging content. On its own, bad content won’t prevent your emails from being delivered, but if your content is boring or irrelevant, people won’t engage with it, or worse, will mark your emails as spam. Manage your complaint rate. If your email marketing service warns you that complaints made against you are high, take the warning seriously. Set up an email address that a representative of your email marketing service can use to contact you with any complaints. Be proactive about closely monitoring your reputation metrics. Get your sender score to learn what you need to change about your program in order to improve your reputation and your inbox placement rates. Be transparent. Be clear about who you are and don’t hide the unsubscribe link. Be upfront about what your subscribers will be getting from you and when. How often are you emailing them once they have subscribed? Is it clear what they are opting into.
The email performance dashboard in Marketo is a good place to start when trying to measure email deliverability. Here you’ll see measures of all bounces and click rates to determine the overall performance of all your campaigns. In addition to reviewing common email metrics such as email delivery rate, bounce, open, click, and unsubscribe rates, you should ask yourself questions like, how many records are inactive? What is my risk of hitting a spam trap? And who are we ignoring? Furthermore, engagement data is a prominent measure of deliverability at some of the major ISPs.
Major email providers such as Yahoo, Gmail, and Outlook have made it clear that they analyze which emails their users open and click through to gauge whether emails from a particular sender are spam. They score you based on your engagement levels. So you want your subscribers to open, click and forward on a steady basis.
Now that you know how email deliverability works, let’s go into Marketo and set up some measures to make sure your messages get to where they need to go. -