• Best Practices

4 Tips To Improve Your Email Deliverability In 2021

Mary Dolan
5 min read

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.

Done well, an email program is one of the most valuable tools at an organization’s disposal. It can help you achieve a high delivery rate, which is the rate at which your email is successfully delivered to a target audience. However, if done poorly, your program may result in low delivery rates, fewer customers, and delayed orders or services. 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 deliverabiity? Download our free white paper on Understanding Email Deliverability.

What's the difference between Email Delivery and Email Deliverability?

Email delivery is when your message is accepted by the inbox provider, like Gmail or Yahoo. Email deliverability is when your email makes it into your subscriber's inbox, also called inbox placement. Whether or not you make it into the inbox 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 list's email boxes at all, and the one you and everyone else cares about: the inbox. 

Email deliverability is the ultimate metric that everyone cares about because landing in the inbox is how your messages get opened. Email deliverability issues will manifest themselves most obviously in your open rate metric. If your emails aren't landing in the inbox then your open rate will suffer. Additionally, landing on an email blacklist like Spamhaus can also cause deliverability problems.

Some inbox providers will do a domain blacklist lookup, and if your domain is there you could go straight to the spam folder, if they accept your message at all. Blacklist providers, and ISPs, keep a list of spam traps that are designed to catch senders with poor sending practices. Spam traps are email addresses that aren't operated by real users, instead, they're operated with the sole intention of catching spammers.

If your email campaigns follow best practices like outlined in this post then you're already on your way to avoiding major issues. 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. 

Inbox providers will also look at how users engage with the content of your emails. Your engagement rate is a combination of total engagement: open rates and click rates are both positive engagement signals. If your 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. Bounce rates encompass both hard bounces and soft bounces, so make sure you have a return-path setup to receive that bounce information.

Another popular check is if 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.

Deliverability 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 is constantly flagged as spam and lacks 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. This 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.

Deliverability 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.

Deliverability Tip #3: 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. How 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, will help 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.

You should also set up a feedback loop 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.

Deliverability Tip #4: 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. Maybe your ERP automatically generates a PDF invoice for your customers. Maybe you’re too busy taking pictures of your newest online purchase.

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, better deliverability, and more time you can use to brag on Instagram about your new pillows and keychains. 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, attachment-free 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

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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Last updated on April 09, 2021

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