Effective ways to maximise email deliverability

8 min read by Lauren Boyton 15 Jun 2021

The million-dollar question, how do I get my email into someone’s inbox and keep it out of the spam folder? In truth, there’s no easy, single solution and this is because there are hundreds of data points that mailboxes take into consideration when deciding if to place an email into the inbox or spam. In this article, we’ll take a look at what you can do to help your email deliverability, how to check it and why spam isn’t that bad. 

It’s important to remember, when your Email Service Provider (ESP) says that your email has been delivered, that means it could have been delivered in the inbox or spam folder – your ESP cannot tell where it has been placed. 

To combat this, you could employ a tool such as Validity to help you measure your ‘Inbox Placement Rate’ (IPR) – which is the rate of emails that were delivered to the inbox rather than the spam or junk folder.  

Talos Threat Centre reported that 85% of global email volume is classified as spam, making our job that much more difficult. As we walk through this article there are two key themes:

  • There is a strong relationship between email deliverability and other email tactics, such as proactive list management, subject line optimisation and a/b testing
  • A good subscriber engagement rate will help with email deliverability – so ensure your content is relevant to your subscribers.

Ways to help your deliverability

There are numerous activities that you can undertake to help your deliverability: 

Keep your email list clean – Following the implementation of GDPR, keeping your data clean should always be a priority and it goes without saying that you shouldn’t be purchasing lists from third parties. For best practice, you should be keeping an eye on soft and hard bounces, ensuring that you don’t continue to email those customers as it will harm deliverability.

Make it easy to unsubscribe and chose preferences Preference centres are best practice for a simple reason: it makes shoppers aware that they are in control of their relationship with a brand. Empowering subscribers to choose the communications they receive, and the channels they receive them on significantly improves their experience. As a result, unsubscribe rates decrease and your communications will have a greater impact.

Talk to your customer, person to person The future of email isn’t batch and blast, it’s a 1-1 personalised approach, nurturing your customer through the customer lifecycle. 

Email engagement – Knowing how different parts of your data react to email marketing is important and I would recommend you implement segmentation strategies to improve effectiveness – you don’t want to be sending every send to rarely engaged contacts. Email spam filters will look at email engagement when placing it into spam or the inbox – does the contact usually engage and open the email? Do they delete it without opening it? Do they mark as read but not open? Therefore email engagement segmentation is more important than ever.

What about the myths – are they true?

High unsubscribe rates don’t cause email deliverability issues – Unsubscribes have a ‘neutral’ effect on your sender reputation. It is a natural part of the customer lifecycle and should be made as easy as possible for the recipient to action. In contrast, marking an email as spam causes a negative effect – 18% of contacts mark messages as spam to unsubscribe. Therefore quality contacts are better than quantity.

Changing IPs won’t affect your deliverability – IPs alone don’t determine your sender reputation. IPs will only obscure deliverability problems temporarily if you haven’t changed anything else in your emails. 

The Gmail promotion tab isn’t bad – Gmail has designed these tabs for the benefit of its users. Tabs allow your contacts to find campaigns more easily and contacts who have the promo tab active are used to looking in it when they want to read these types of campaigns. Newer Gmail developments such as annotations only work in the promotions tab and are designed to enhance the user experience.

Promotional copy is ok to use in subject lines – The concept of spam filters is no longer as true as it once was, modern filters are very sophisticated and are taking into account hundreds of data points when making decisions on whether to place mail in an inbox or spam. Using the the word ‘free’ or adding emoji’s in your subject line doesn’t cause spam placement, however make sure you’re testing if they are right for your audience.

ESPs can’t get you into the inbox, they can contact mailbox providers to ask for more information on deliverability issues – Mailboxes don’t always have an answer to queries raised to them – there’s very little human interaction and there’re a lot of factors that impact it.   

How do I know if the emails are hitting the spam folder? 

There is a relationship between quality campaigns, complaints and open rates, which will help you determine if your emails are hitting the spam folder. 

  • Low complaint rates can be a result of a good campaign strategy
  • Low open rates can also be an indicator of the email being placed in spam, as contacts can’t complain about campaigns already in the spam folder. 
  • High open rates + low complaints, suggests the email is reaching inboxes
  • Low open rates + low complaints, suggest your email is likely going into spam. 

Complaints are a key indicator of a decline in sender reputation and issues with deliverability. A complaint is recorded when a subscriber presses the spam or junk button on your email. 

Why spam isn’t that bad

According to DMA, 47% of contacts check their spam folder once a day. Only 17% of contacts check their spam folder less than once a week. Incredibly 11% of contacts check their spam folder at least once an hour. So contacts don’t just ignore this folder … which is good thing.

Senderscore reputation

One way you can get an indication of your deliverability is to check your senderscore, which is measured between 0 -100, with a high score being an indicator of good deliverability. Your senderscore tells the mailbox providers how good you are, the higher your score the better you look in the eyes of the mailbox filters. You can check you score and take actionable insights to improve it at Sender Score. For more information, you should also talk to the specialised deliverability department at your email service provider.

Ensuring that you manage your data, implement segmentation strategies, use a/b testing to identify ways to improve and have an understanding of  how to combat ‘spam emails’ by implementing best practices, will provide you with the the foundations for effective emarketing 

If you would like to discuss how emarketing can be a key component of your marketing strategy, drop us a line, as we’d love to start a conversation with you. 

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