The Dismal Science Of Email Deliverability

Creativity will take you only so far in email marketing: First, you have to get your email delivered.

And that task requires more science than art. 

Are you a small owner or a manager trying to run this yourself? You probably should get help.

But here are a couple of tips from How To Improve Email Deliverability and Optimize Each Send, a paper byLitmus and Salesforce.  

First, keep a close watch on these element:

Email Address Reputation — This is based on a number of metrics, including bounce rate, unsubscribe rate and the number of times you end up in a spam trap.. Needless to say, the higher your reputation, the less chance your emails will be waylaid. The paper recommends conducting spam tests to determine if your messages are triggering filters. 



Your overall email sender reputation depends on these factors (and we quote):

  • The number of emails your organization sends 
  • How many subscribers engage with your emails (based on actions like open, reply, forward, delete, and click) 
  • How many recipients mark your emails as spam or otherwise complain about your emails 
  • If your organization hit any ISP spam traps or is on any blocklists 
  • How many people unsubscribe 
  • Email bounces 
  • The reputation of any URLs used in your campaigns 
  • The domains and IP addresses used for sending 
  • Where your images are stored (CDN, different domain, etc.) 
  • The content of your message 

IP Address Reputation — If you send more than 100,000 emails per month, you need a dedicated IP address and certainly an appropriately branded domain name. Amd if your volume is 250,000+, you are required to have a dedicated IP address. And it’s worth it — you can send 1.5 million emails per day with one. 

Server configuration — You need these three authentication frameworks: 

  • DKIM (this provides an encryption key and digital signature that verifies the message was not forged or altered.
  • SPF—This allows you to define which IP addresses are allowed to send emails for a domain. 
  • DMARC provides a report on messages that failed the authentication, allowing you to determine if someone using the domain is a spammer. 

Email Content — Here’s where the art comes in, to a degree. Look at your formats — is the text/image ratio in sync? Can the email trigger spam filters, even the preheader or HTML? Don’t overdo the artwork: As the report states, “In our experience, email messages that are flooded with images and videos find themselves filtered to a spam box or promotion tab.” 

Next, here are the critical metrics that you have to monitor:

Delivery rate —  Emails send-emails bounced/emails sent 

Bounce rate — Emails sent-emails delivered/emails sent 

(Note: A hard bounce usually happens when the email address doesn’t exist. A soft bounce occurs for a temporary reason — say, the inbox is filled or disabled. The block bounce is more serious—it happens when the inbox rejects the email over a lack of authentication, or if the domain or IP address is on a blocklist. 

Unsubscribe rates — This doesn’t have much of an impact, but your rate shouldn’t top 0.5%. If your unsubscribe rate exceeds that, it could indicate unhealthy acquisition practices or the fact that your content isn’t engaging your subscribers. 

Engagement rates — The open rate, click-through rate, and click-to-open rate. Litmus also promotes something called the Litmust read rate—do they spend any time reading your content? 

What should you shoot for? In the end, you should have a 99% delivery rate. 



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