Email Deliverability 101

Marketers obsess over designing innovative emails, writing compelling copy and killer subject lines, and crafting powerful calls-to-action, but what’s the point if that labor of love never reaches the inbox?

Email deliverability challenges are a common issue for many brands. According to Return Path, roughly one out of every five commercial emails never reaches the inbox. With nearly 15% of emails diverted to the spam folder or blocked entirely, marketers are missing valuable opportunities to build stronger relationships with their subscribers.

Let’s talk about email deliverability, why it matters, and how to ensure your email gets delivered. Can’t wait? Get our Email Deliverability Checklist to boost your delivery rates, optimize your inbox placement across your subscriber list, and avoid the dreaded spam folder (or worse, the blocklist).

What is Email Deliverability?

In a nutshell, email deliverability is the ability to deliver emails to subscribers’ inboxes. Email service providers, blacklists, and spam filters work together to ensure recipients receive quality content and aren’t inundated by spam.

They look at every aspect of your email – from its content to the sending IP address – to decide whether to stop your email in its tracks or give it the green light into your inbox.

What’s a busy marketer to do to ensure their emails arrive? Successful deliverability depends on a combination of essential factors, including authentication, email reputation, database health and subscriber engagement, and content quality. Only emails that pass these tests make it to the finish line – the inbox.

Factors That Hurt Deliverability

Nevertheless, too often marketers don’t think about deliverability until it’s too late. What are you doing (maybe without even knowing it!) that’s killing your email deliverability? Factors that damage deliverability include:

  • Sending without custom authentication
  • Using single opt-in
  • Sending from a free domain email address
  • Using spam triggering email subject lines
  • Making it difficult to unsubscribe
  • Having low quality content

While email deliverability can never be guaranteed, with quality content, a strong domain reputation, a solid IP reputation, and proper email-sending practices, you can reduce deliverability issues and maximize your odds. Follow our six fundamental tips to improve your deliverability.

6 Essential Tips for Improving Email Deliverability

Tip 1: Authentication is Key

Authenticated emails help to prevent malicious messages from reaching the inbox and are less frequently rejected by spam blockers.

Ensure you’re following proper authentication protocols, including: Sender Policy Framework (SPF), DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) and Domain-based Message Authentication Reporting & Conformance (DMARC). Set up authentication methods for each of your sending domains and check for configuration errors to prevent legitimate emails from being blocked. Marketing tools, like Litmus, make it easy to test your emails against these authentication protocols for issues.

  • A Sender Policy Framework (SPF) inhibits spammers from sending unauthorized emails that appear to be delivered from your domain.
  • DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) helps servers verify that a message was indeed sent by the domain owner.
  • DMARC is an email validation system that aids sender reputation and protects an email domain against spoofing scams and other cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

Tip 2: Adhere to IP Address Best Practices

Ideally, you should consistently send from the same sending infrastructure and IP address. Utilizing a dedicated IP address makes it that much easier for email service providers (ESPs) to recognize you, ultimately simplifying the delivery path of your sends.

Keep in mind that when using a shared IP, any other sender’s negative reputation will impact your own, as well as injure your delivery rate. If you use a shared IP for sending mail, continuously monitor for any internet blocklist.

Tip 3: Follow Email Best Practices for Optimal Delivery

Follow tried-and-true best practices to increase your chances of reaching the inbox. Use a valid and consistent from-name that’s easy for subscribers to identify. Make sure your subject lines are relevant and clear to avoid misleading recipients. Guarantee that all links and call-to-action buttons throughout the body of the message stand out and are easy to understand, so users know their next step and intended action. Keep away from using HTML and CSS to hide content within your email to dodge the dreaded spam folder.

(Our Email Optimization Checklist shares step by step how to analyze your email-sending practices, reduce delivery hurdles, and improve and maintain database health to ensure your emails reach their intended audience.)

Tip 4: Quality Over Quantity

Quantity is not more important than quality when it comes your email database. Steer clear of purchasing lists and regularly audit your contact list. Improve your list hygiene by removing invalid email addresses and hard bounces. Suppress less engaged subscribers from your active sending list and win them back with a strategic, personalized re-engagement campaign.

Respect your subscriber’s wishes. Only send messages to contacts that have opted in to receiving your messages and avoid opt-in forms that are prechecked by default. Sending unwanted messages often leads to soaring spam complaints.

In addition, always provide an unsubscribe option that is easy to find and complete. Allowing your users to opt out will assist in improving the key performance metrics of your sends, such as open rates, click-through rates, and sending efficiency.

Tip 5: Slow and Steady Wins the Race

It’s best to begin with a conservative sending volume, and then gradually ramp up the quantity over time. Avoid sending emails in bursts. Instead, distribute your messages across a steady-going cadence.

If you increase your send volume and frequency too rapidly, you run the risk of a delivery dilemma and surge in spam complaints. As you mindfully map out and execute your email marketing plan, closely supervise your send rate, as well as subscriber response and engagement.

Sending the right message, at the right time is critical to your overall deliverability and subscriber satisfaction. If you’re seeing an uptick in deliverability problems and unsubscribes, you’ll need to adjust your email strategy. Consider allowing subscribers to customize the frequency at which they receive messages with a preference center. In addition, send less often to subscribers who don’t consistently engage with your emails to avoid overwhelming their inbox.

Tip 6: Testing Made Easy

Email testing prior to every send is critical. Integrate your ESP with a tool like Litmus, to help make inbox errors and spam complaints problems of the past. Litmus’s Email Previews and Spam Testing features make it easy to ensure every email is error-free, uncover and resolve issues across spam filters, and gain actionable insights to secure successful delivery.

Get Your Message Delivered

Deliverability is complex and can be daunting, and if you’re sending millions or billions of emails, it can get even more complicated. Download our step-by-step Email Deliverability Checklist to maximize the deliverability of your email sends, skyrocket your engagement stats, and steer clear of spam folders.

Looking for some hands-on help? Get in touch to develop a plan with one of our email experts to improve your deliverability and get your emails into more inboxes. Ready to up your open rate and get more clicks to your website? Let’s get started.