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Effective Email Deliverability: How to Land in More Inboxes

November 6, 2020
Jacqueline Zote
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You’ve spent hours crafting the perfect email that you’re sure will bring in lots of customers, only to learn a significant portion of the emails you sent never even made it to people’s inboxes.

According to Validity, a data integrity-focused software company, 1 in 6 messages don’t make it to the inbox. These email deliverability rates are shocking and sometimes even frustrating because for your emails to work, they have to reach people’s inboxes first.

While you may already have good email delivery rates, you could further improve the impact of your email marketing campaigns by improving your deliverability rates as well. So rather than just worrying about how many emails you manage to deliver, you should worry about how many of those emails make it to the inbox and not to any other folder.

In this guide, we help you make sense of how to improve email deliverability rates and why it’s so important for your business.

Understanding Email Deliverability

First of all, let’s make a clear distinction between email delivery and email deliverability.

Email delivery refers to whether the recipient can receive the message. You’ll be considering factors such as whether the email address exists or whether the email provider has blocked your IP address and so on. In other words, email delivery concerns the ability of the recipient to receive your message at all, even if it means delivering the message to their spam folder.

On the other hand, email deliverability refers to whether your message reaches the inbox instead of the spam folder. A low sender reputation, for instance, could reroute your email to the wrong folder instead of reaching the recipient’s inbox. Email deliverability concerns the ability of your message to reach the inbox specifically.

There are plenty of tools to run an email deliverability test. Mail-tester is a free tool that tests your email deliverability, taking into account factors such as authentication, content, blacklisting, link quality and more. It then gives you a score out of 10 along with suggestions to improve your email for better deliverability.

Mail-tester is an excellent free tool that tests your email deliverability, taking into account factors such as authentication, content, blacklisting and link quality.
Source: Mail-tester

You can also run an email deliverability test using SendForensics, GlockApps and the spam check tool from Postmark.

Why Is Email Deliverability Important?

If your emails are reaching recipients anyway, you may be wondering why you also should care about deliverability. Why is email deliverability important for your email marketing efforts?

To understand this, think about how you use your own email. Do you check your spam folder regularly? Chances are you don’t. Perhaps you’ve even set the folder to automatically clear after a certain number of days. This means the messages in your regular inbox are the ones that normally catch your eye and the ones you typically open.

So when your marketing emails only manage to reach the spam folder, they likely will get lost, forgotten and eventually cleared. You’ve significantly reduced your chances of getting noticed, let alone getting people to open your email.

In short, email deliverability determines other factors such as email open rate and click-through rate. This makes it crucial to regularly check email deliverability rates and improve them if you want your email marketing efforts to have a bigger impact.

How to Improve Email Deliverability Rates

Once you understand the importance of good deliverability rates, the next logical step is to find out how to increase email deliverability. Which strategy will improve email deliverability and what do’s and don’ts should you consider? Check out the following email delivery best practices and tips to improve email deliverability rates:

1. Prevent IP Address Issues

Internet service providers (ISPs) have filters in place to prevent spam emails from getting to your inbox. For this, one of the factors they consider is the credibility of your Internet Protocol (IP) address. IP addresses help to identify computers on the internet, making them particularly useful for delivering locally relevant search results on Google, for instance.

In the case of emails, spam filters will use your IP address to identify whether the message is coming from a trustworthy source. At the start of your email campaign, make sure you take it slow by sending small batches at a time.

Make sure you focus on the most engaged subscribers at first to start building trust and credibility for your IP. When lots of people open and engage with your emails, it signals to ISPs that your IP is trustworthy and relevant.

On the other hand, sending out thousands of emails right from the start will give out “spammer” vibes, so it’s best to avoid this approach at all costs.

2. Check and Improve Your Sender Reputation

Sender reputation is another major factor affecting email deliverability. A low sender score could make it more difficult to reach recipients through their inbox, so make sure you monitor this regularly and quickly fix any red flags.

Usually, tools that assess your sender score will consider factors such as how many recipients submitted a complaint, how this complaint rate compares to your total email volume, how often your emails get rejected and so on.

You can check your sender reputation through the reputation lookup tool from Cisco Talos Intelligence Group. Enter your IP address in the search field and click on the search icon. This will bring up a comprehensive list of information about your IP reputation. Under “Reputation Details” you can see the info about your email reputation. If your email reputation is good, you’re off to a good start.

You can check your sender reputation through the reputation lookup tool from Cisco Talos Intelligence Group.
Source: Cisco Talos Intelligence Group

You can also check your sender reputation using Sender Score from Validity. This tool will score your IP between 0 and 100 with 0 being the worst. You’ll need a score of at least 80 to improve your email deliverability.

3. Check for Blacklisting

You could experience low email deliverability if your IP gets blacklisted. This is when your IP makes it to the blacklist or block list of email spam reporting services such as Spamhaus and SpamCop. These services typically add an IP to their blacklist or block list when said IP has received plenty of spam reports.

If you do make it to the blacklist or block list, you’ll need to work with the respective reporting service that created the list for a solution. Working with email marketing services could avoid the risk of blacklisting as well. Whatever you do, avoid sending emails from an IP that’s been blacklisted or the issue could get worse.

The mail-tester tool mentioned earlier will show you whether you’ve been blacklisted along with a detailed list of all the leading advisories and blocklists.

The mail-tester tool will show you whether you’ve been blacklisted along with a detailed list of all the leading advisories and blocklists.

The Talos reputation lookup tool also generates a “Block Lists” report. You can use this to check for blacklisting as well.

The Talos reputation lookup tool generates a “Block Lists” report.

4. Get Authenticated

If you look at the mail-tester results above, the tool also considers whether you’re properly authenticated to test your email deliverability. So getting your emails authenticated is another critical step to improve deliverability rates. The good news is if you use email marketing services such as Campaign Monitor and Mailchimp, these providers will automatically take care of this for you.

For those sending out marketing emails from their own server, make sure you verify your email authentication settings to see if everything’s in order. You’ll need to set up authentication for the following:

  • Sender Policy Framework (SPF) – This verifies the identity of the email sender to ensure that the message is coming from an authorized IP on that domain.
  • DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) – This works like a signature to verify that your email isn’t forged or altered.
  • Domain Message Authentication Reporting and Conformance (DMARC) – This creates policies to manage emails in case they fail SPF or DKIM authentication.

If you use the mail-tester tool, you can get information about any authentication failure along with suggestions to fix them.

If you use the mail-tester tool mentioned above, you can get information about any authentication failure along with suggestions to fix them.

5. Clean Up Your Mailing List

What happens when you send an email to an invalid email address? The delivery will fail and the mail will bounce back. So when you keep sending emails to nonexistent email addresses, you’ll get high bounce rates and low delivery rates. Not only this, a high bounce rate will eventually bring down your email credibility, which then decreases your email deliverability rate.

It’s important to remember that people sometimes change their email addresses, so the one you have on your mailing list may no longer be valid. In addition, some recipients may no longer engage with your emails because they don’t find it relevant. This means your emails will often end up in their spam boxes, which also lowers your sender reputation.

This makes it crucial to regularly purge your mailing list and get rid of disinterested subscribers and no-existent emails. Tools such as Validity’s BriteVerify and Kickbox can help you with this. Both of these tools will scan your mailing list and separate the good emails from the bad. This simplifies the process of removing invalid emails that are driving up your bounce rate.

6. Provide an Option to Unsubscribe

When people don’t want to receive your emails, they’ll likely unsubscribe. Yet if they don’t find the option to unsubscribe, the logical next step is to mark your email as spam. This drastically drags down your sender reputation and your email deliverability rates.

So if you want to improve email deliverability in the long run, don’t forget to include an option to unsubscribe to your emails. You could also get people to take a short survey to find out why they decided to unsubscribe. This could give you valuable insights on how to improve email relevance and engagement.

You normally will see the “Unsubscribe” button at the footer of an email, where it’s visible but not particularly prominent. Although it’s present and accessible, it’s not the main focus of the message. Notice how Netflix adds an “Unsubscribe” link at the footer of its marketing email.

Notice how Netflix adds an “Unsubscribe” link at the footer of its marketing email.

7. Use Double Opt-In for Better List Quality

Building a strong mailing list can be a great way to improve email deliverability. One of the best options to strengthen your list from the start is by using double opt-in. This prevents new users from instantly receiving brand communications unless they confirm their subscription using a verification link.

If the user doesn’t confirm the link, you won’t be sending them any additional emails. With double opt-in, you can avoid adding invalid or incorrect email addresses to your mailing list, helping you minimize bounce rates. Plus, you have a lower risk of getting marked as spam since people will explicitly confirm that they want to receive your brand communications.

When ArcaMax Publishing started using double opt-in, the syndication service company saw improved email deliverability rates in the first week.

When ArcaMax Publishing started using double opt-in, the syndication service company saw improved email deliverability rates in the first week.

8. Avoid Spam Trigger Words

Besides the credibility of your IP address, spam filters also look at several other things including the use of certain words and phrases to detect possible spam. Usually, these are words and phrases associated with scams, schemes, gimmicks and free gifts. So even if your mail is perfectly authentic, spam filters may think otherwise if you happen to use certain trigger words unknowingly.

Clearly, aim to avoid spam trigger words. Even something as simple as “free consultation” or “free trial” could land you in the spam box of certain recipients. Check out the comprehensive list of spam trigger words to avoid from ActiveCampaign.

9. Improve Email Engagement

The more engaged your recipients are, the less likely your emails will make it to the spam folder. Email service providers look at engagement data to filter emails and provide users with a good experience. Return Path conducted a study with Demand Metric and found marketers who focused on email engagement were much more likely to have good or very good deliverability.

So, if you want to improve your email deliverability, you must also aim to enhance your email engagement. This will involve several steps including segmenting your list to make sure that you deliver only the most relevant email content to different recipients. The Return Path study found that 2/3rds of marketers who segment their list report good or very good deliverability.

Personalization is another factor that could improve email engagement and eventually, email deliverability. Return Path found marketers who personalized their email content had a 16% higher open rate and a 9% higher click-through rate than those who don’t.

Combine these with a compelling email sequence and you’re good to go.

Get Ready to Reach the Inbox

Reaching the inbox isn’t rocket science, but it isn’t that easy, either. It can be particularly challenging if you’re new to email marketing and you’re still struggling to improve your sender reputation.

The good news is we’re here to help. Kantaloupe helps you run effective email marketing campaigns with targeted research and constant optimization. Reach out and let us help you land in more inboxes for your next email marketing campaign.


Jacqueline Zote

Jacqueline Zote is a digital marketing and entertainment writer who makes regular contributions to Sprout Social and She also writes fiction and her short story has been published by HarperCollins Publishers and Zubaan Books.

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