Floris Oranje
Floris Oranje 8 March 2019

Five Tips to Get your Email Deliverability Back on Track

January. The month where resolutions are made and many people strive to improve upon their health. For marketers, this is a great time to follow suit and make some resolutions for the health of your marketing efforts. At the core of this sits one of the most integral parts of any successful email campaign: deliverability.

Deliverability refers to the amount of your recipients that receive your message in their inbox. If this is overlooked, it can have an incredibly detrimental impact on your email marketing ROI. Your creative may be on point, your subject lines well thought out and your content totally engaging, but if your recipients aren’t seeing your message, the likelihood of a conversion and a healthy ROI is 0%.


Your deliverability rates are largely dependent on your sender reputation. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) such as Hotmail, Gmail and Outlook want to provide users with a good service by filtering out as much spam or unsolicited email as possible. Therefore, when your message hits these ISPs, they’ll assess the sending history of your IP address to determine whether it’s something the recipient is likely to want to receive. If you have no sending history, or you’ve sent messages through an IP address that has historically resulted in high spam complaints or bounce rates, it’s probable that your messages will be sent straight to the SPAM folder.


Your first stop for assessing the health of your deliverability is your “delivered” metric. This metric is usually available within your Email Service Provider’s (ESP) reporting toolkit, and it relates to how many of your messages were received by the ISP. As a general benchmark, this metric should not fall below 95%. If your deliverability metric is frequently falling below this metric, it’s a clear sign that you need to review why your messages are not getting through to the ISP at all.

However, what your deliverability metric doesn’t tell you is what the ISP did when it received the message (i.e. was it sent to the inbox, straight to the SPAM folder, or elsewhere where it’s not likely to be seen such as the Gmail ‘Promotions’ folder?) This is why it is also necessary to review your “open rate” metric; if you’re seeing a drop in open rates, but your click through rates are still pretty healthy, your messages may not be being delivered to the recipient’s inbox.


If you’re concerned about your deliverability rates, here are some things that you can do to achieve your New Year’s Resolution to improve this:

1. Review your bounce rates

Bounce rates can consist of hard bounces, which means that your recipient did not receive the email (usually due to an incorrect / non-existent address), or soft bounces, which are caused by a temporary delivery problem such as the email server being down, or the message size exceeding limits. There are lots of industry specific metrics around bounce rates in studies by Mailchimp and Constant Contact.

A high bounce rate can harm your reputation with ISPs and impact your deliverability, as it indicates that you aren’t keeping your lists clean. Many ESPs allow you to set rules to clean up your bounce rates by automatically supressing the recipient if bounce rates exceed a set number of times. Make sure that this is in place to keep problematic email addresses off your recipient list.

2. Are your recipients engaged?

Mail Chimp’s Email Marketing benchmark metrics report shows that the average unsubscribe rate should always be below 0.5%, depending on your industry. If unsubscribe rates are consistently above this, it’s a sign to review the content you are sending to your subscribers.

In order to optimise this, make sure you define a contact strategy including more personalised content, when you will contact them, and how frequently. Always stick to a clear schedule, as erratic sending patterns are a marker of spam.

Segmenting your content based on key factors such as gender, age and interests can help to personalise your content and keep your subscribers engaged. Also, consider the source of your data – is someone who signed up via a competition or free giveaway really likely to want to receive regular email communications for you? Remember, a longer list does not equate to more revenue. A small, highly engaged list is going to bring you much better results in terms of deliverability, which means a much higher ROI for you.

3. Are you making it easy for recipients to opt out?

If recipients can’t opt out easily, those that do not want to receive mail from you are far more likely to mark your email as spam. Spam complaints above 0.02% exceed the industry average and are very bad news for deliverability as they can seriously harm the reputation of your IP address. They can even put you on spammer blacklists which prevent any future mails you send from reaching the ISP at all. In some cases where you’re using a shared IP address, your ESP may even suspend your account to protect their reputation for other customers, which is a serious hinderance to your marketing efforts. To avoid this precarious fate, ensure you unsubscribe links are in a clear place and honour any opt-out requests as promptly as possible.

4. Clean up your Content

The wrong content can get your emails sent straight to the SPAM folder. Here are a few things that you should watch out for when it comes to your content:

  • Links to unrelatable sites or content.
    URL shorteners can also cause spam filters to put your mail into the junk folder because it is hard for the ISP to determine where you are linking to.
  • Misleading subject lines.
    For example, using “RE:” or “Fwd:” when you’ve never contacted the recipient before.
  • High image to text ratio
    Putting text in an image is a red flag for spam filters because this makes your content unreadable for them. Email clients are likely to categorise emails that are image heavy as advertisements and place them in the ‘promotions’ folder.
    This will definitely make your emails look suspicious.

It’s always best practice to test any campaign with a spam tester, which email quality analysis tools such as Litmus and Email on Acid offer as standard. A test will assess your content and give you a score. If your score is high, you may need to review the content of your message.

5. Beware of the spam traps!

Spam traps are fake email addresses which are implemented by ISPs to catch spammers. Deliberate spam traps are email addresses which have never signed up to an email but are available on the internet. These traps are designed to catch spammers who scrape emails from the internet, which is extremely bad practise! You shouldn’t need to worry about this spam trap if you’ve gathered subscribers from a legitimate source, such as newsletter signups.

However, there are other types of spam traps to be aware of to avoid being caught out. Recycled spam traps are email addresses that were historically in use but are no longer active. If your email ends up in this inbox, it’s a sign that you’re not removing bounced emails from your subscriber lists, which can have a detrimental effect.

Another type of spam trap to beware of is the typo spam trap. This is where the email is spelt wrong (i.e. [email protected]). This type of spam trap won’t penalise you if you send to it once, but keep sending to it and it’s a sign that you’re not using a double opt-in strategy. You can avoid the perils of spam traps by regularly cleaning your subscriber lists of unengaged and bounced recipients, and by implementing a double opt-in strategy.

If you’re concerned about the deliverability of your Marketing Campaigns, the team at Dept can help. Our Marketing Automation experts assist clients across multiple industries to improve their omni-channel campaigns. If you have any questions let us know, we’d love to hear from you!

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