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How to improve your email deliverability in 2022

If your customers aren’t getting your transactional emails, then there’s a good chance that your email program needs some refreshing with these email deliverability tips.



You know the drill. One of your customers, yet again, didn’t receive the receipt, confirmation, sign-up key, or other desired email they were expecting. The angry customer’s voice is on the other line. “Where’s my order confirmation? Did you get my email right?” After much back-and-forth, one of your sales reps finally figures out what’s going on. “They didn’t get the invite to the user group,” she says. “They said it went to spam.” As she says this, the phone starts ringing again.

Does this sound familiar? If your customers aren’t getting your transactional emails, then there’s a good chance that your email program needs some refreshing. First, we'll cover the differences between email delivery and email deliverability, then we'll identify the four common deliverability issues and how you can avoid them.

Looking for advanced insights on email deliverability? Download our free white paper on Understanding Email Deliverability.

What is email deliverability?

Email deliverability measures how frequently an email makes it into the subscriber's inbox. It’s sometimes also called inbox placement and it’s the ultimate metric that everyone cares about because landing in the inbox is how your messages get opened. 

Whether or not you make it into the inbox (or the spam folder) can depend on several factors: your overall sender reputation, your IP address reputation, if you have the proper SPF and DKIM DNS records placed, and more. It's the difference between your email making it into any of your subscriber’s email boxes at all, and the one you and everyone else cares about: the inbox. 

What's the difference between email deliverability and email delivery?

Don’t let the names fool you. Email Delivery and Email Deliverability are two different things: 

  • Email delivery is the percentage of emails that are received by the mail servers of your subscriber's Internet Service Provider (ISP), like Gmail or Yahoo. The emails that do not make it to the server are categorized into soft and hard bounces and can hurt your sender reputation, so make sure you have a return-path set up to receive that bounce information.

  • Email deliverability is the percentage of delivered emails that make it into the inbox. Aside from your sender and IP reputations and your email authentication records, inbox providers will also look at how users engage with the content of your emails to determine whether your emails belong in the inbox or the spam folder.

It’s possible for a sender to have a good email delivery rate and bad email deliverability. For example, Outlook may accept your email but put it straight into the spam folder. 

An email program is one of the most valuable tools at an organization’s disposal as it can help you achieve a high deliverability rate, which is the rate at which your email is successfully delivered to your target audience’s inbox. However, if done poorly, your program may result in low deliverability rates, fewer customers, and delayed orders or services.

Common email deliverability problems

There are a number of factors that might negatively impact email deliverability, including missing email authentication, low engagement, or bad list quality. Improving your email deliverability often starts with identifying what’s wrong, which can often be a combination of two or more of the above.

If you’re looking to improve your email deliverability rate, it’s worth looking at authentication methods like SPF and DKIM. Another popular check is to ensure you have a DMARC record setup, which is an email authentication measure to protect your domain from unauthorized senders spoofing their emails to look like they came from you.

Inbox providers will also look at how users engage with the content of your emails. Your email engagement rate is a combination of total engagement: open rates and click rates are both positive engagement signals that inbox providers will look at when determining where to send your emails.

Bad email list quality can also cause deliverability problems. Some inbox providers will do a domain blocklist lookup, and if your domain is on an email blocklist like Spamhaus, you could go straight to the spam folder, if they accept your message at all. Blocklist providers and ISPs keep a list of spam traps – email addresses that aren't operated by real users – that are designed to catch senders with poor sending practices. If one of those ends up in your email database, your emails will be blocklisted and won’t reach their intended destination.

There are other metrics like sender score that can also have an impact on your deliverability, which can look at both your domain reputation and IP reputation. These metrics are influenced by your behavior as a sender. If your email marketing campaigns follow best practices like outlined in this post then you're already on your way to avoiding major issues.

Tips to improve your email deliverability 

So, what can you do to improve the deliverability of your emails? Here are a few tips:

Tip #1: Keep your mailing list up-to-date.

Some things age well, like wine, all four Golden Girls, and Hello Kitty merchandise. Your email list? Not so much.

Older mailing lists contain outdated, abandoned, and uninterested recipients that can have a negative impact on both email delivery and email deliverability rates. Over the last few years, ISPs have moved away from traditional spam filters and focused their attention on user engagement – that is, how your subscribers interact with the emails you send them. These interactions help them determine whether emails should go to our inbox or land in our spam folder.

As an email sender, when you keep these addresses in your list then your emails may bounce or go to the wrong inbox. This can lead to spam complaints, which can harm your delivery rate and reputation. If your sending address and domain are constantly flagged as spam and lack positive engagement, your emails will stop showing up even in the inboxes of those who want them, and your messaging will reach fewer people. This, in turn, can hurt your organization’s financial goals.

To easily avoid these pitfalls, be sure to validate your mailing list, update it regularly, and remove inactive subscribers. email validation ensures that you are sending your emails to real addresses and interested customers. These customers will engage with your communications and keep your deliverability rates high and your reputation sparkling.

Tip #2: Have new subscribers verify their address before being placed on your mailing list.

We’ve all mistyped our email address. Perhaps we aren’t paying attention, or maybe we’re just in a rush to get a fast-selling item. It’s likely that, for a variety of reasons, at least a few of your customers won’t type in their email address correctly on your platform. Incorrect email addresses can result in unseen communications and negative feedback.

The solution? Verify the email address at the point of interaction using a double opt-in tool. If you request someone’s email address when they place an order or sign up for an account, send them an email confirming their subscription using double opt-in. The likelihood of you receiving an engaged customer and correct email address is much higher, and communication between you and your customers will be much smoother and more positive for both parties.

Tip #3: Manage subscribers' expectations.

Recipients' expectations are at the heart of email deliverability. During your subscriber's sign-up phase, your customer needs to know exactly what they are getting into. The more you're aligned with them, the better your results will be.

There are some shady ways to grow your email database that might get you more contacts, but will hurt your sender reputation in the long term. Why? Because these subscribers didn’t request to receive regular emails and may ignore the message, mark it as spam, or unsubscribe. ISPs will also pick up on this low engagement and downgrade your sender reputation, hurting your overall deliverability rate. 

Clearly asking for consent and letting your contacts know the type of content you’ll be sending them will help manage their expectations and maintain good email engagement. Segmenting your audience based on how often they interact with your emails and adapting your email frequency to each of these segments can also help minimize the impact of non-engagers. And if you have done all of this but a recipient still shows a lack of engagement, it might be time to just let them go.

Tip #4: Monitor engagement metrics and spam complaints.

Sometimes the truth hurts. One person may not care if they receive several reminders or offers from your organization, but another may grumble about their full inbox. But how exactly do you know if your subscribers want your communications and are engaging with them?

Open and click-through rates, as well as your unsubscribes and spam complaints, can help you understand whether your audience is finding your emails valuable or not. Since ISPs now focus on user engagement to decide where an email should land, carefully monitoring them is important to protect your deliverability. If your email campaigns have high negative engagement, like bounce rates or complaint rates, then that is a signal that you're not following best practices and could influence if you make it into the inbox or not. 

You should also set up a feedback loop (FBL) to keep track of any spam complaints your message receives. While Mailgun registers all of their IPs for feedback loops, you should double-check and make sure that you are signed up for all major email service provider FBLs. Ignoring feedback and garnering too many complaints can lead to these providers blocking your emails, which seriously harms your deliverability. Embrace the truth, embrace the loop, and cut back on emails customers find redundant.

Tip #5: Don’t attach PDFs to your emails.

By attaching a PDF to your mail, you may think you're making things easier for the customer. Maybe your web developer is on vacation and you can’t figure out how to host the file. Or perhaps your ERP automatically generates a PDF invoice for your customers. 

Regardless of your reason, if you’re sending any commercial email messages to your customers, make sure to remove any attachments. If you leave them in your email, you’re giving yourself a one-way ticket to the spam folder and a lower delivery rate. Take these attachments out or, if they’re necessary, find a way to send them within the body of your email. This leads to less spam and better deliverability – in our opinion, that’s a win.

Key takeaways

Email deliverability is all about making sure that your emails land in an inbox. If you want to ensure that your emails are being seen by potential customers, and appropriately engaged with, you need to show ISPs that your emails are wanted and prompt positive interactions from your consumer base.

Up-to-date mailing lists, valuable content, and succinct mail will help your emails land securely in your contacts’ inbox and provide a solid foundation on which your company can grow.

Learn about our Deliverability Services

Deliverability Services

Looking to send a high volume of emails? Our email experts can supercharge your email performance. See how we've helped companies like Lyft, Shopify, Github increase their email delivery rates to an average of 97%.

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