If you put any time and effort into email marketing (which your business should be doing), then you need to pay careful attention to email deliverability.
Without good email deliverability, your carefully crafted campaigns might end up in spam folders. Nobody will see your emails, and you’ll get no results in return.
Before you start optimizing any part of your email marketing, you’ll need to get your deliverability up first.
But wait, it’s not all doom and gloom! By following a few important email marketing metrics, you can easily optimize your email deliverability.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about email deliverability, how it works, and how to improve it.
Follow these strategies if you want to see far better results for your business’s email marketing strategy.
What is Email Deliverability?
Email deliverability refers to the ability to send emails to your subscribers’ inboxes. It’s one of the most important email marketing KPIs.
Marketers monitor email deliverability to understand the likelihood of their campaigns actually reaching their audience’s inboxes in comparison to the actual delivery metric.
The alternative to good email deliverability is having your emails land in a spam folder. Needless to say, this won’t result in any positive outcomes for your email campaigns.
If your email deliverability is high, then you have a far greater chance of your email campaigns being a success. This is the first important metric you need to get right in order to achieve high open rates and conversion rates.
So, without good email deliverability, email campaigns won’t achieve good results. It doesn’t matter how good your email content is or how engaged your subscribers want to be – if your email doesn’t land in their inbox they won’t see it.
As a business or marketer, one of your top priorities should be increasing email deliverability.
Email Delivery vs Email Deliverability
Before we confuse you, let’s just slow things down and cover the basics. Deliverability and delivery are two different things.
Email delivery answers the question “Can a receiver accept your email?”
Email delivery refers to when your email is sent to a certain email address. This happens before the recipient chooses to receive your email in their inbox or in their spam folder.
If the domain or email address doesn’t exist or if your IP address is blocked, then delivery will be unsuccessful.
When delivery is successful, this just means the email has landed in the intended recipient’s mailbox. It doesn’t necessarily mean the recipient is able to see your email though.
Email deliverability answers the question “Does the email reach the targeted inbox?”
So email deliverability isn’t just about getting the email delivered to a mailbox, it’s about where exactly the email ends up. Email deliverability decides whether your email lands in a spam folder, an inbox, or another folder.
Email deliverability is also known as inbox placement. The ultimate goal for deliverability is to land straight into a subscriber’s main inbox.
There are three elements that makeup email deliverability:
- Sender Identification: The set of protocols that determine you are who you claim to be. This includes Sender Policy Framework (SPF), DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM), and Domain-Based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC). Identification ensures the correct person is sending the correct email.
- Sender Reputation: Sender reputation is a score that determines how trustworthy your emails are. Basically, being marked as a trusted sender and receiving positive engagement will help you gain a strong sender reputation. Different Internet Service providers (ISPs) and organizations could have different sender reputation scores for the same sender, but they all follow the same general idea.
- Content: The quality of your email content also affects your deliverability. If you’re sending emails with poor-quality copy that doesn’t offer the right message for your audience, then your email deliverability will be affected.
Sender reputation and identification are the two main elements that affect email deliverability, although content also plays an important role. So, in order to get more of your emails landing in the right inboxes, you will need to make sure that you provide a good experience in each of these areas.
How to Improve Email Deliverability: 20 Strategies to Avoid the Spam Folder
Now you understand email deliverability, so how can you use it to optimize your marketing strategy?
Follow these 20 strategies to help you improve email deliverability and run email marketing campaigns that achieve better results.
1. Use the Right Email Software
First and foremost, the easiest way to improve your email deliverability is to use the right platform to send emails.
If you send out high volumes of marketing emails, you need to be using a proper email marketing tool. This is essential.
First of all, the right email platform allows you to automate email sequences, segment your leads into different lists, A/B test your emails, access valuable email performance data, and more. All of this is important for sending optimized email campaigns.
And from an email deliverability perspective, you need to use an email infrastructure that has been properly set up for sending mass emails. Things like IP addresses and IP reputation play an important role in reducing deliverability issues. These are just a few things that your email marketing software handles.
Setting up your email campaign with a platform like Wishpond makes it easy for you to know that all of the important factors have already been taken care of to improve your inbox placement. Not only will a platform like this make it far easier to set up and deliver an optimized email campaign, but it will also cover half the work of getting your email deliverability right.
2. Prime Your IP Address
ISP filters protect inboxes against spam emails. As a business, you want to make sure that these spam filters recognize your IP address as being valid and trustworthy.
What’s the best way to achieve this?
When you put together email campaigns, start by sending out your campaign to a small list of subscribers that you know are engaged. There’s a far greater chance that all of these emails will be well-received, opened, and engaged with. This will add an element of trust to your IP address.
Now, as your IP address builds trust, you can slowly start to send out the rest of the emails. This should help you improve deliverability.
The best way to pull this strategy off is to use an email marketing database that lets you set up specific workflows and lists based on your subscribers and their actions. For example, you could set up an email list for all subscribers who have opened and engaged with your emails in the last 30 days.
Send emails to this list first, and there’s a good chance they will be more engaged with your email.
Now, you can send out the emails in batches to the rest of your subscribers and see better deliverability results.
3. Use a New Subdomain Only For Email Marketing
This isn’t always the easiest or most convenient way to improve email deliverability, but it can be effective when done correctly.
You can register a new subdomain and only use it for email marketing activity. This subdomain allows for domain-specific monitoring of your IP reputation. This means it can succeed against certain domain-based certification filters.
And when you’ve used this domain for some time, users will start to trust the subdomain, which is an added bonus.
4. Be Consistent With Your Email Volume
A simple trick to improve email deliverability is to be consistent with the volume of emails you send.
Distributing your campaigns evenly will help your sender reputation, eliminating major spikes and drops. Consistency and sticking to a dedicated schedule is an important way to improve email deliverability.
If you send out an email twice a week for six months, then suddenly send out three emails a week, you will cause a ripple that could harm your reputation.
In reality, sticking to a certain number of emails is difficult. Sometimes you just need to send out more content, and that’s ok. However, try to keep your sending schedule as consistent as possible. This will help your mailing list to understand and anticipate your sending schedule, which should increase opens and clicks.
5. Keep Your List Clean
In order to improve email deliverability, you will want to lower your email bounce rate as much as possible. Bounces are when your email isn’t able to send to a certain address. Lowering your bounce rate will help you free up resources while improving deliverability.
All you need to do is pay attention to your bounce rate (this should be a clearly visible metric on your email service provider), and delete any email addresses that bounce.
The cleaner your list, the more effective your campaigns will be.
6. Send the Right Content to the Right People
Spam complaints are one of the worst things that could happen to your email marketing. You want to avoid spam complaints at all costs if you’re going to get your emails delivered straight into your subscribers’ inboxes.
Basically, when a recipient marks your email as spam, it will probably never see their inbox again. This also affects your sender reputation and can cause your emails to end up in other spam folders too.
Why would someone mark your email as spam? Because they don’t like what you’re sending them. So your goal should be to send the right content to the right people.
An effective way to do this is to segment your mailing list based on interests, actions, demographics, or more. This way, you can personalize each email for the right group, making sure that the content you send them is more relevant.
By doing this, your subscribers should be more interested in your emails, which should reduce your spam complaints.
Of course, there could be other reasons for spam complaints too, such as sending emails too frequently or being too pushy with products. Pay attention to this metric, and when you see it increase, look back at the last email you sent and try to identify what caused the spam increase.
This can help you figure out how to prevent these complaints from happening.
7. Stay Off Blacklists
Nobody wants to end up on a blacklist, but sometimes it happens. And if it does, it could totally kill your email deliverability.
Blacklists are online databases that store email addresses that have been marked as spam. When a mail server receives an email from a new domain, they reference blacklists to determine whether to accept the message or not.
So if you’re on a blacklist, there’s a good chance your emails will go straight to spam.
The best ways to avoid blacklists are to try to decrease your bounce rate, increase your engagement (through quality content), and mass email blasting loads of people at once.
There are over 100 different email blacklists, and you need to aim to stay off every one of them!
8. Avoid Spam Traps
Spam traps are set up by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and blacklist providers in an attempt to catch email marketers who have been harvesting emails. They come in the form of fake email addresses.
If you send a single email to a spam trap email address, you can be instantly marked as a spammer. This is because you would have gotten the email address through purchasing an email list or participating in a harvester program.
This puts you straight on the blacklist, which just isn’t worth it.
So make sure you only ever gather email addresses through above-the-board strategies.
9. Verify Ownership Of Your Email Messages
Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM) represents ownership of an email message belonging to a certain organization. The point of DKIM is to stop any email that may have a suspicion of spam activity from being received by an email server.
Many clients check for a valid DKIM signature on incoming emails to verify who sent them. The DKIM signature is a digital, encrypted feature that should appear in the header section of your emails. This header shows that the email is original, that its contents have not been, and that it’s sent from the correct domain.
This means DKIM will help increase your reputation with email services and help to prevent certain deliverability issues.
10. Verify Your Sender IP With SPF
Sender Policy Framework (SPF) is another validation system that aims to prevent spam. This system verifies the sender’s IP address to make sure the right person is sending an email to the right address.
This plays an important role in your sender reputation.
With SPF, you protect yourself from having spammers send out messages on behalf of your domain. Setting up your SPF will help email servers verify and validate your email, making sure that it is authentic.
An SPF record lets web administrators choose which web hosts are authorized to send messages from a specific domain. This is achieved by adding an SPF record to your website’s DNS, which servers can use to verify that you are the owner of the domain and are allowed to contact the person you’re sending the email out to.
SPF sends information that proves the email is safe to be sent and received. DNS records view the email, which they either approve or disapprove. If approved, the email is delivered. If not approved, the email is marked as spam and your email deliverability suffers.
11. Encrypt Your Email to Build Trust
To make sure your email deliverability is good, you should only ever send the right information to the right person. Emails disclose information from the sender to the receiver, and this information needs to be properly protected.
Most emails are transmitted in an unencrypted form, which means you should add a layer of encryption to help keep your emails protected. This is where TLS comes into play.
TLS is a type of email message encryption that prevents anyone who isn’t the intended recipient of the email from reading the email’s content. You can think of this kind of email encryption as a form of authentication.
If you use Gmail, you have the option to include TLS encryption. You can notice TLS-enabled emails by the padlock icon that displays next to them. This shows recipients that the email is safely encrypted.
TLS may not be a major, or mandatory, factor for email deliverability. However, it helps to build trust and improve your sender reputation. All of the small details like this add up to help you avoid the dreaded spam folder, so it’s definitely worth enabling TLS just to be safe.
Ultimately, encryption makes your emails more secure, which is an important factor in enhancing email deliverability.
Your marketing email service provider should offer an inbuilt encryption feature to make this easy to apply. If you’re sending emails through platforms that don’t offer this, you can always use a thor party provider to help you add encryption and improve various email deliverability issues around safety and data protection.
12. Use a Dedicated IP Address
If you consistently send out a high volume of emails, then you should be using a dedicated IP address. This is when you’re the only person that uses that IP address (instead of sharing it with other senders). This means your unique IP address is kept separate from your local IP.
If you keep your email volume consistent, having a dedicated IP address can make an enormous difference to your email deliverability.
However, you have to make sure that you do keep things consistent. If your email sending volume and patterns fluctuate, using a dedicated IP address could end up harming your deliverability.
Just be aware that a dedicated IP doesn’t come cheap. Most email senders use a free local IP, which can work perfectly fine. However, if you do send out consistent mass emails and want to take your campaigns a level up, then a dedicated IP is well worth considering.
13. Avoid Sending Spammy Subject Lines and Email Content
Your email recipients are protected by various spam filters to prevent spam messages from entering their inboxes. This is a good thing because nobody wants to receive spammy messages.
While there is a lot that a spam filter uses to detect these messages, one of the things that a spam score considers is spammy keywords. Words like “Amazing”, “Millions”, “Incredible”, using ALL CAPS, or “You won’t believe this exclusive offer” type language can all give your email content a spammy feel. This could land your message in a junk folder.
Even if your email shouldn’t be labeled under spam reports, it’s still possible if the email sounds like it could be spam. To avoid this, always pay careful attention to the kind of language you use in your email messages. Make sure your emails sound human, and they aren’t overly promotional.
Yes, email marketing campaigns need to be marketing-focused, but not to the point where they just read like an overly-promotional infomercial. Instead, try to use natural language in your subject lines and talk about benefits without using too many exclamation points!!! Or using typical advertising lingo.
14. Make Sure it’s Easy to Opt-Out
One of the biggest factors affecting email deliverability is sending out emails to people who don’t want to receive them. This is a sure-fire way to attract a spam complaint, which will send your email deliverability down the drain.
Your email subscribers choose to receive your email content. If they decide they don’t want to receive emails from you anymore, then they need to be able to opt-out/unsubscribe. This is a legal requirement, and it also ensures you don’t send emails out to those who don’t want them.
Make sure all of your emails have a clear and functioning unsubscribe link at the bottom. This prevents you from violating the GDPR and it will get you fewer spam complaints.
15. Stop Sending to Inactive Email Addresses
Old and inactive email addresses aren’t adding any value to your email campaigns. Not only are these email accounts not helping your business generate more revenue but they’re actually hurting your email metrics.
The more emails you send to accounts that don’t engage with your emails, the more this affects email deliverability.
You don’t just want to discard inactive email addresses, but you should just continue sending them the same old marketing messages either.
A good strategy is to remove email addresses that haven’t shown any signs of engagement in the last 180 days from your mailing list. Send these email addresses to an automated re-engagement or re-permission campaign.
With the right campaign and a good offer, you could get these once inactive emails engaging with your email content again. Your email marketing metrics will improve, and so will your inbox placement.
16. Consider Using Double Opt-In
Opt-in refers to when a person gives you permission to send them emails. You can’t just send out emails to random lists. Instead, you need to ensure you’re only sending email campaigns to those who have explicitly asked for them.
There are two types of opt-ins available: single opt-in and double opt-in.
Single opt-in is when someone only has to perform a single action to help them become a subscriber. This can be an effective way to build a large mailing list, but it can also result in a lot of inactive subscribers who aren’t really interested in what you’re sending them.
As we know, this results in email deliverability issues.
Double opt-in is when a second action is required. Once a user signs up to your mailing list, a confirmation email is sent to them. They generally click a link to verify their consent.
Double opt-in will help you build up a more engaged and interested mailing list. Recipients have clearly confirmed their intent to receive email messages from you, which will help you improve your sender score.
17. Avoid Using No-Reply Sender Addresses
You probably receive a fair amount of emails from no-reply addresses. What’s the point of these email addresses? To show that nobody is monitoring their inbox and to prevent recipients from replying to them.
Why do businesses use these email addresses?
Who knows. They provide a one-way ticket straight to poor email deliverability.
If you want to get your email metrics and deliverability rates up, then you WANT subscribers to actively respond to and engage with your emails. This gets you more opens, more clicks, and helps improve your sender reputation score.
Not only do do-not-reply@… email addresses look unprofessional, they will result in fewer email opens and probably more spam complaints.
As you know by now, this will give your email sender reputation score a deep downhill dive.
18. Try Sending a Plain Text Version Of Your Email
If you’re struggling with poor email deliverability, one strategy you might want to consider is sending out a plain text version of your email.
Yes, just text.
We know what you’re thinking – this will look boring. While emails with images and awesome designs may look incredible, this doesn’t always mean they will get better email engagement. In fact, sending emails with more images could result in worse deliverability.
Email campaigns without visuals can really maximize your deliverability.
Email clients will display the most compatible version of your email based on your subscribers’ settings. If you include a plain text version along with your HTML campaign version, this means all of your email recipients have the possibility to see and receive your emails.
This will help you achieve maximum deliverability.
19. Use a Sender Address From Your Business Domain
Don’t ever send out marketing emails for your business from your personal email address, like your Gmail address. This is a personal address, and it will probably fast-track your way into a spam folder.
Instead, use an email address with a domain name recognized by your recipients. Your domain reputation plays an enormous role in deliverability.
Without getting too technical, domains like Gmail use an additional authentication system called DMARC (Domain-Based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance). Basically, this means that any Gmail email addresses that are sent from a platform outside of Gmail (like your email marketing software), will be penalized.
Even with SPF and DKIM checks in place, a mass email campaign sent using a Gmail address can still easily get directed into a spam folder.
The best way to ensure your email is sent safely is to send it from a dedicated business address with a great domain reputation.
20. Use Personalization
When your email lands in a recipient’s inbox, they want to know that it’s been written and delivered just to them.
When a recipient sees a generic email that they feel absolutely no personal connection to, it’s being sent straight to the spam folder. There goes your delivery rate…
So, if you want to get better engagement and increase your email metrics, then you need to use personalization in your campaigns.
Step one is to include the recipient’s first name, business name, and anything else that makes the email feel like it was intended just for them. This may be simple, but it makes a big difference.
Step two is to take personalization even further and send personalized emails based on the recipient’s behavior, purchase data, preferences, and more. This means they get an email tailored exactly to them and what kind of interactions they’ve had with your brand.
The results? Better email engagement, better email deliverability.
For example, don’t just send out a blank email saying “please review your purchase for a chance to win”. Rather send an email that says “Hi John, thanks for purchasing a blue raincoat. We hope it keeps you dry in the wet London winter. We’d love for you to review your purchase to stand a chance to win a set of matching blue rain boots.”
You’ll easily ramp up engagement this way and get a lot fewer abandoned email addresses.
Modern email service providers make it easy to understand your email subscribers’ data in order to send highly customized, personalized email campaigns at scale.
There’s a lot that goes into email deliverability.
You might have gathered a large email list that you’re sending fantastic marketing content to. Yet, none of this content might be seen because your deliverability is low.
If this is the case, the good news is that you have a lot of different options to improve email deliverability. While there’s a lot that goes into this, the bottom line is that you need to be sending the right emails to the right people. Do this consistently and your deliverability should see an improvement.
And of course, using the right email service provider makes an enormous difference.
It’s not too difficult to avoid spam traps and folders, you really just need to make sure you send your active subscribers the kind of email content they want to see. Get this right, and your email marketing efforts will rise to a whole new level.
Email Deliverability Frequently Asked Questions
What determines sender reputation?
Sender reputation is determined by two factors: IP reputation and domain reputation. Both factors are calculated separately, but they each contribute to your email sending reputation. This plays a direct role in whether your emails land in an inbox or spam folder.
What is IP reputation?
Every email is sent from a device that has a unique IP address, which is a computer’s identifying address. A specific IP address is tied to a specific email sender to help ISPs track senders. An IP reputation refers to the IP address which the email originated from. This is what gets you into the recipient server. Email senders can either send from a dedicated IP address or from a shared IP pool.
What is domain reputation?
Domain reputation is the factor that gets your email into an inbox. This is not related to your IP, but rather to the specific brand that is sending the email. Your brand needs to build a good email marketing reputation in order to develop a strong domain reputation. Domain reputation is determined by how you send your emails, who you send them to, what kind of email engagement you get, and ore factors. Domain reputation isn’t affected if you change your IP address or email service provider.
What is a hard bounce?
A hard bounce happens if you send an email to an email address that doesn’t exist. Hard bounce email addresses will never be able to receive emails, so they need to be deleted from your list.
What is a soft bounce?
A soft bounce is when an email can’t be delivered to a recipient’s mailbox due to temporary reasons. This could be because the email server is down, the server has blocked your email address, or more. It’s possible to turn around a soft bounce at a later stage.