Email deliverability: Protecting your investment

Nathan She

4 minute read

If you had the opportunity to buy 1,000 shares of a stock at $1 each, knowing you could later sell them for $42 a piece, you’d jump at the chance, right?  According to the Direct Marketing Association the current ROI on email is exactly that 42:1.  With this impressive ROI in mind, is your organization doing all it can to protect your investment in its email program?  Are you keeping a close eye on email deliverability in order to take advantage of this huge return?

While testing strategies, segmentation, personalization, copywriting, and design are all incredibly important to the success of your email program, email deliverability is all too often an afterthought. It’s disheartening for a marketer (not to mention a waste of time and resources) to put all their effort into an email campaign only to have the message land in the spam folder.

Part of the issue is that email deliverability, as a concept, is a harder sell than a strategic roadmap or a QA process. Even the term itself is often misunderstood, which then leads marketers to focus on the wrong metrics.

Email deliverability defined

Email deliverability is the measure of how many emails actually make it into the inbox. It is frequently confused with email delivery, which describes how many emails were completely transferred to the intended recipient’s mailbox provider (which isn’t the same thing as landing in the inbox). 

As an example, a marketer could have a list of 100,000 email addresses and their delivery rate is regularly around 99%. Sounds pretty great, right? After all, 1% is a healthy bounce rate. Well… there’s more to the story than that. 

Would you feel as confident in your email program if you knew your emails were only actually landing in the inbox 75% of the time? Probably not. This would be a strong indication that your audience was not engaged with your content, and would be reflected by lower open rates and in turn lower conversion rates.  While there isn’t a precise way to calculate your deliverability rate, it should be roughly that of your delivery rate when sending to a healthy, engaged email list.

Delivery rates are readily available, but your deliverability rate has so many different factors that play into it and as such is not as easily calculated.

So how do you assess your email deliverability?

There are three initial ways to assess your deliverability, which include keeping an eye on open rates, bounce rates and unsubscribe rates.

In reviewing open rates a sizable drop in open rates is often a clue that your emails are being sent to spam instead of the inbox. Large discrepancies between click-through rates and open rates can also mean that your deliverability isn’t where it should be.

Bounce rates are also a sign to pay close attention to. Both hard and soft bounces should make up less than 4% of your total emails sent. A hard bounce means the recipient didn’t get your email at all (often due to an incorrect email address). A soft bounce is usually a temporary delivery problem such as the email server being down, or the email message being too large.

Marketers should also keep a keen eye on unsubscribe rates, striving to keep those under 1%. While unsubscribes aren’t necessarily a negative metric (or one that should be feared), they do show a direct correlation with engagement. If the unsubscribe rate is consistently creeping up, then this would be a clear indication that something within your email program is not working properly. 

By following open, bounce and unsubscribe metrics, you will be able to start recognizing subtle shifts in your email engagement and more importantly you will be able to respond and adjust your approach accordingly – while also adding in different metrics into the mix. 

The latest trend impacting deliverability

There has been a marked increase in the number of cold email campaigns in recent years, and especially given the circumstances of the past 14 months. These cold email sales tactics could easily get you into hot water from a deliverability standpoint, especially if your business development team is not following organizational best practices. These individual attempts at reaching clients or prospects could be hurting the organization’s investment in email

To protect your email program investment, we highly recommend having a domain strategy that will separate out any individual emails being sent out from your team from your day-to-day organizational communications.  Implementing these domain strategies can help, but may still spill over into the overall deliverability if you go too far outside the bounds of permission-based sending.

We have seen a steady increase in enterprise brands running into deliverability catastrophes that can often be attributed to their organizational sending practices.  Keep in mind deliverability catastrophes aren’t just reserved for ‘spammers’ and or list buying senders. Just because you didn’t purchase your lists doesn’t necessarily mean your email database is healthy.

A customized approach to email deliverability

The best overall approach to improving your email deliverability is to not look to your email program for your short term gains, as that is often where you can get in trouble. 

It’s never too late to start paying more attention to your deliverability. We can provide a customized approach to all of your deliverability challenges, and help you stay ahead of encountering issues and lost ROI. We use a wide variety of deliverability service sources, and as such we are able to get the most detailed picture of what happens to your email after you press ‘send’. Talk to Trendline today!

Trendline Interactive

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About the Author(s)

Nathan She

BS in Computer Science from Kennesaw State University. Nathan is an avid tennis player and certified USPTA teaching professional who competed at the collegiate level for KSU. After univserity, Nathan found his way into the email world through MailChimp and Inbox Pros. Nathan's competitive spirit is still present to this day at Trendline where he helps clients combat poor deliverability. Interestingly, Nathan was once hit in the head by a motorcycle. Follow Nathan on LinkedIn

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