6 tips to improve email marketing deliverability

Email marketers know that deliverability is the most critical aspect of any email marketing campaign. After all, targets being able to receive emails is the basic foundational element for an email marketing strategy to work. According to ReturnPath’s 2015 Email Deliverability Benchmark Report, American businesses saw nearly one in four emails land in the spam folder or go missing, and from 2014 to 2015, inbox deliverability rates dropped from 87% to 76%, respectively. What’s more, is that most companies don’t even think about deliverability until it’s an issue.

1.Know where you stand… Check your sender score

The biggest cause of poor email deliverability is low sender score. Internet service providers (ISPs) automatically reject any emails that fall below a certain score. You can access the data that ISPs and other email recipients use to decide whether to accept or reject your emails. The sender score is on a scale from 1 to 100. The higher your score, the better your reputation and the higher your email deliverability rate. Review your score often to correct poor performance before it becomes too damaging.

2. ISPs determine deliverability

Being banished to the junk folder should be the least of your concerns. Sometimes internet ISPs join the deliverability failure fun and block your email altogether by looking at sender reputation. The following metrics determine sender reputation:

  • Properly formatted emails: Send quality emails to your subscribers without broken links or HTML rendering issues. Poorly coded emails get caught in filters.
  • Number of complaints: Follow best practices to decrease subscriber spam complaints. Ensure that your recipients have signed up, that your content is relevant, that there are clear unsubscribe options available and that you don’t email too often.
  • Volume: ISPs look at the rate in which you send emails when determining sender reputation. Send schedules do not have to be the same every week, but they shouldn’t be completely sporadic. Pro tip: subscribers don’t appreciate this either.
  • Blacklist status: Check your blacklist status regularly. Appearing on just one blacklist is enough to get blocked by an ISP. If you do get blocked, try reaching out to the blacklist administrator and convince them to remove your IPs from the blacklist.

3. Keep an eye on bounce rate

Email campaigns usually return soft and hard bounce backs, which are the number of people who did not receive the email.

Soft bounces did not receive the email due to server issues, such as a full mailbox. These bounces do not count against you.

Hard bounces occur because the email address is incorrect or inactive. If you get a lot of hard bounces, this alerts the ISP that your lists aren’t up to industry standards. Remove hard bounce contacts from your lists regularly.

4. Deliverability gets personal

Just as Google search results show different listings for different users, delivery has also become personalized. ISPs are sophisticated enough to decide on inbox placement by not just sender score but also by previous interest shown by each email subscriber.

  • Make sure you segment your list and get the right message to the right people
  • Try personalizing email subject lines and welcome messages
  • ISPs do not track clicks, so don’t worry about removing inactive subscribers from your list

5. Double opt-in

Many email marketers only require subscribers to opt-in once. Most often the subscriber agrees to receive an email by simply checking a box. The best practice is to require subscribers to opt in one more time with their confirmation or welcome email. This is known as a “double opt-in.” What may seem like overkill is actually one of the best tactics to increase the chances of continued inbox placement.

  • When you don't use a double opt-in system, incorrect email addresses can join your list. This negatively impacts your sender reputation by adding to the statistics of undeliverable addresses to which you send.
  • Single opt-in lists receive higher spam complaints and expose you to the risk of being blacklisted by ISPs. Some ISPs begin blocking send servers after as few as two to three spam reports per thousand emails.

6. Keep an eye on it

The best time to begin monitoring email deliverability is before a campaign has a serious inbox placement issue. Start by reviewing your sender score. Unless it’s 100, there’s room for improvement. Use best practices at every step of email marketing strategy and pay attention to falling engagement metrics. If you want more campaign-saving tips like these, sign up for our newsletter below.