In a time where live events and in-person experiences have been put on hold, marketers are depending on email more than ever to connect with their audiences. Recent data shows email is experiencing some of the highest engagement rates in five years, so ensuring your messages are getting in front of your customers is crucial. If your recipients never see the email, how can they engage with your brand? This is where deliverability comes in – playing a big role in any email marketer’s success.


What is deliverability?

Deliverability is the ability to get your messages into your recipient’s inbox. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, according to ReturnPath from Validity, about 1 in 5 of all commercial emails are either sent to the spam folder or blocked entirely, so it isn’t quite as easy as it seems.

There are a lot of factors that determine if your message will land where you intend it to. Some of them are easily within your control before you even hit send – think list hygiene, content relevance and audience segmentation. Others are more heavily weighted on how Internet Service Providers (ISPs) view your sending practices, which is where a lot of the confusion surrounding deliverability comes in. Have you shown up on a blocklist? Are your customers actually opening the emails you’re sending them? Are they complaining about receiving your messages?

To gain a better understanding of deliverability, let’s break it down into three different categories.

  1. Identification: Sender Policy Framework (SPF), Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM) and Domain-Based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC) are all protective protocols that help prove you are who you say you are and provide ISPs more reason to trust your email messages.
  2. Reputation: Sender reputation is how ISPs view your email activity. While reputation criteria vary across mailbox providers, factors such as complaints, spam traps, and blocklists all have damaging impacts to reputation. The best way to maintain a good sender reputation is by ensuring your recipients want to hear from you!
  3. Content: While identification and reputation play the largest role in affecting deliverability, the content you’re sending is also important. Ensure the subject matter is relevant to your audience, be aware of your image to text ratio, and avoid “spammy” practices, such as using excessive punctuation, all caps, or overpromising language such as “guaranteed,” “make money now,” etc.


Why should I care about deliverability?

Your email deliverability is a determining factor of your sender reputation with ISPs, which ultimately control whether or not your email will make it to the inbox.

To put it one way, sender reputation is a lot like a credit score. If you have bad credit, banks are less likely to give you a loan. In email, if you have a bad sender reputation, you’re less likely to make it to the inbox, driving your deliverability down. It’s important to monitor deliverability so that you can identify any potential issues before they can permanently impact your reputation.


What should I look out for when monitoring deliverability?

The factors below can all be an indication of poor deliverability and could lead to future problems if left unaddressed.

  • Drop in engagement rates, like opens and clicks
  • High complaint rates
  • High bounce rates
  • If your IP is showing up on any blocklists, on tools such as MX Toolbox
  • Large drop in sender score, if using the ReturnPath platform


How should I track it?

Luckily, there are a lot of great tools available to email marketers to keep tabs on their deliverability and reputation. At emfluence, we partner with ReturnPath from Validity to monitor all sender activity. Their dashboards offer insights into sender score, spam trap hits, user complaints, and more. And with the use of a ReturnPath seed list, you can get an inside glimpse into inbox placement across various mailbox providers.


Final Thoughts

You’ve tested the subject lines, you’ve designed the perfect layout, you’ve built your list, but in order for all that hard work to pay off, the email has to actually make it to recipient. Good deliverability is the foundation to a successful email marketing campaign, so it’s crucial to monitor it closely, regularly, and take necessary actions when you see any potential issues. The best way to avoid deliverability problems is to abide by email best practices – getting customers to opt in, offering a clear way to unsubscribe, maintaining list hygiene, and sending relevant content that encourages subscribers to engage with your messages.


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