Introduction to email deliverability

Email deliverability, simply put, is about whether your messages ultimately reach your recipients' inboxes—or get stuck in a spam filter. This article will introduce you to the subject and the key factors affecting your deliverability.

In the world of email marketing, both Inbox Service Providers (ISPs) like Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo, and you, as a sender, share a common interest: the recipient. Your goal is to reach your customers, while the receiving domain seeks to filter out only legitimate communication. This is the essence of email deliverability.

While most of your emails will successfully reach the recipients, occasional delivery issues might occur. Let’s look at the key factors that influence your email deliverability and inbox placement.

Recipient activity

How active are your recipients? Are they engaging by opening your emails? What’s their average opening rate?

The ISPs are constantly monitoring engagement levels—and it’s up to you to keep up yours. Here are some pointers:

“Listen” to your recipients. If your open and click rates are low, ask yourself why. What is your send-out frequency, what is your offer, and what motivates your recipients to engage? You know what’s in it for you, but what’s in it for them?

List hygiene

Make sure that your contact list consists of only of genuinely opted-in and engaged contacts. Avoid adding new email addresses to your lists through unclear opt-in terms, purchasing "leads lists" from vendors, or including contact lists from company websites.

Be very transparent with your subscribers about what they can expect from your communication. You can use straightforward methods to verify the authenticity of the email addresses in your lists:

  • Implement a double opt-in process with confirmation emails.
  • Include email address validation in your forms.
  • Use dual email address fields.

Bounce rate

Bounce information provided by the ISPs is a good piece of information to get a hint of your list quality. There are two types of bounces: Soft bounces and Hard bounces.

Soft bounce means that the email send-out has gotten as far as the receiving mail server but has bounced back before reaching the intended recipient. A soft bounce might occur because the inbox is full, or the mail server is down. It could also occur due to the ISP considering your messages as spam.

Hard bounce means that the email address is permanently invalid and unreachable. This might happen because the domain name doesn’t exist or because the recipient is unknown.

Your goal is to keep the bounces as low as possible. A good target is a maximum of 0,5 % soft bounces and 0,1 % hard bounces.

Technical setup

There are a few, yet crucial technical setups that must be in place to improve your deliverability:

  • You need to consider your sender names and addresses. Read more on this subject in this article.
  • Your sender domains need to be properly authenticated. There’s a user-friendly, step-by-step guide within Engage that takes you through the entire domain authentication process.
  • You should have a DMARC policy, which you can read about here, in place.
  • Set up postmaster and abuse email addresses.
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