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You spend time and effort building your email list and creating your emails because email marketing provides the single best return on investment of any marketing channel. Of course, if those emails don’t get delivered to your subscribers’ inboxes, that return on investment is hard to achieve.

In this post, we’ll take a look at how you can get the most out of your email marketing efforts in a changing deliverability environment.

First, a quick definition:

Deliverability: A measure of how many emails are successfully placed in the subscriber’s inbox

Great deliverability, sometimes called ‘Inbox placement’ requires a certain degree of responsibility. Your email service provider (ESP) needs to take care of their sending platform, reputation and management (we’ve got you covered there!), and you as the sender need to look after your permission, reputation and sending patterns.

Getting more emails delivered to the inbox

We spoke to email deliverability expert Andrew Bonar about the changes he expects to impact email this year. Bonar believes 2016 is the year that the actions subscribers take (or don’t take) with your email campaigns will play a bigger role in getting future emails to their inboxes.

“Mailbox providers are getting ever more skilled at identifying which messages you want, and which you will not miss if they don’t arrive in your inbox”

Bonar also predicts that:

Your email service’s IP address reputation is no longer enough. In past years if you used Campaign Monitor, the outstanding reputation of our IP addresses (which are specific computer addresses belonging to Campaign Monitor) would help you get your emails delivered.

Our IP addresses have excellent reputations as quality email senders, but mailbox providers now use a much broader set of signals when deciding where (and if) to deliver your emails. Read on as we cover more of those signals.

Authentication and DMARC will become increasingly important in getting your emails delivered. Authentication is a way for you to confirm that the emails you send are really from your company. Bonar sees 2016 as the year authentication moves from a “nice to have” to a “must-do”. You may need to get some help from your IT team to set authentication up, but it will pay off when your emails can be verified and delivered more often to more inboxes.

Your domain reputation is more important than ever. In the past, switching to a new email service provider might help you leave a problematic sending reputation behind, but email services and ISPs are getting smarter about tying a company’s emails together, no matter which service sent them.

Seed lists and individual tests aren’t as useful. Sending a campaign to a bunch of addresses at different email services and ISPs used to be a good way to tell if your email was going to land in the inbox. However, those test addresses don’t behave like real people do. As the big email providers start measuring and filtering at an individual level, a test list won’t provide as much useful insight.

Subscriber behavior matters. Gmail and other big providers put much more weight on how your subscribers interact with your email (opens, clicks and much more). They use that data to decide whether your emails should be in the inbox (regardless of your legal permission).

At the same time, the rise of tools like Throttle let individuals manage their email in new ways and this year we’ll learn what impact those tools may have on email campaigns.

Action list for better deliverability

1. Make sure you authenticate the domains you use as your From address. 

You’ll need to make some changes to your domain’s DNS records (or have your IT team do it). Check out our guide to help you.

2. Use custom fields and preference centers so you can provide more personalized email with dynamic content. As mailbox providers measure individual behaviors more closely, your ability to send the right information to the right person at the right time will be more important. Read more about how using a preference center can help increase subscriber satisfaction.

3. Consider setting up a DMARC policy just to start reviewing reports. We’ll talk much more about DMARC this year, but you can dip your toes in the water by using a service like DMARCian to receive readable reports on email being sent from your domains. DMARCian offers a free plan as well as paid plans.

4. Read up on anti-spam laws and confirm you are complying with changing legislation. We’ve seen several countries tighten their laws over the last few years, and we expect more to come. We have a guide to keep you in the know.

Wrap up

While you’re taking care of your email lists and reputation as an email sender, we’ll be your partner in getting your emails delivered to the inbox. Throughout the year, look out for new guides and resources, and of course, our customer service team are always here to help.

  • Julia Gulevich

    Great article, thank you for sharing!

    I’d say that deliverability is a much broader concept rather than Inbox placement. Deliverability measures how many emails did not bounce. Thus, it includes emails delivered to the Inbox and spam folder, plus emails rejected or blocked without a bounce sent to the sender. So, while all these metrics are important in evaluating the effectiveness of an email campaign, email marketers should primarily look at the Inbox placement rate to measure how their email program generally works.

    And since recipient behavior comes to the first fore when mailbox providers apply filtering decisions, I’d add one more point to your “Action list for better deliverability”. It’s about using a permission based email acquisition method. I think all starts with a list. If the recipients do not expect and do not want the emails from a particular sender and act on them accordingly (move to spam, report as spam, delete without opening), mailbox providers will start filtering the messages despite authentication and reputation.

    Me too, I wrote a blog post about email deliverability best practices. I think it might be a great addition and might be interesting to the readers of this post. I hope it is fine to share a link here https://glockapps.com/blog/email-deliverability-best-practices/

  • Jaina

    It’s amazing how important subscriber behaviour is becoming for email deliverability. I think it’s great for the subscriber, but definitely makes email marketers jobs harder. A lot more planning and thought has to go into campaigns, everything from content to timing. Challenging, but not impossible!

  • Andrew Bonar

    Hi Julia

    You had me nodding with the opening words that “deliverability is more than inbox placement” however you then went on to make what is still one of the most common mistakes and started to define delivery.

    Almost all deliverability professionals disagree with your definition of deliverability. You have defined email delivery. If deliverability was simply those messages that were delivered (accepted) there would have been no need to come up with a new word.

    You can simply Google Delivery vs Delivery/Delivery and Deliverability or any similar phrase to see posts going back some 18+ years covering this topic. There is more to deliverability in my opinion than inbox placement, as just one example: rendering.

    Deliverability has always been an issue of getting the message seen by the intended recipient, in the timeframe and the way in which the sender wished it to be seen.

    More than ever this means services like Litmus https://www.campaignmonitor.co

This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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