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Whether you’re an email marketing pro with several extensive email campaigns under your belt or a relative email newbie designing your first newsletter, increasing email deliverability is key to your success.

Everyone knows you need to increase reads and click-throughs in order to boost revenue, but the best designed emails will be rendered pointless if they don’t make it into your targeted inboxes. In fact, only 28% of messages sent worldwide make it to an inbox. This is where email deliverability comes in.

If you’re an adult living in the 21st century, odds are you’re familiar with spam emails. You’ve probably had spam slip past your inbox filters while interesting emails you actually wanted got trapped. So how do you ensure your emails are some of the 28% that make it into your subscribers’ inboxes?

Email providers seem to update their rules constantly, but following these 7 tips will increase your email deliverability and boost success rates for your next email marketing venture:

1. Start small

In order to increase email deliverability, you need email providers to trust your IP. One of the ways internet service providers (ISPs) gauge who is sending spam is by the source of the email. This source filter looks at whether an email is coming from a brand new IP or an IP that hasn’t been authenticated. A trick of spammers is to IP hop, meaning they never have a long history and doing something similar is a good way to get your emails flagged as spam and blocked from your subscribers’ inboxes.

If you have a great reputation but need to switch IPs for whatever reason, launching into email campaigns the exact way you used to will lead to being blocked from some subscribers’ inboxes. Likewise, you can’t do anything about the day you started your business, so how do you avoid this filter when you haven’t earned the ISPs’ trust?

One great way is IP warming: sending a small batch of emails to users you know are engaged before sending to the full volume of subscribers. When these initial subscribers open and interact with your emails, email providers will recognize that you aren’t sending spam and you’ll be able to send to a larger volume without being flagged.

You can build trust with ISPs by ensuring you deliver quality content from the start. Stay with one IP as much as is possible for your business and you’re on your way to building trust between inboxes and your IP.

Turo’s welcome email clearly illustrates the kind of high-quality content subscribers can expect in the future, building trust with ISPs as well as their subscribers:

Source: Really Good Emails

2. Maintain list hygiene

Another filter that can affect email deliverability is the reputation filter. This filter gauges the quality of your emails and you. One of the fastest ways to get yourself blocked is to send emails to addresses that are no longer active, resulting in a hard bounce. A soft bounce occurs when an email is undeliverable because an inbox is too full or any other reason considered temporary.

If you have a high bounce rate, this tells the ISP you aren’t doing a great job of keeping up to date with your subscribers and shows you have problems with engagement. In order to avoid this trap, be sure that you are cleaning up your subscriber list regularly.

You should remove inactive subscribers once they haven’t opened an email in 12-18 months. Sending re-engagement emails is another great way to make sure only the most interested parties are receiving your emails.

In this email, American Airlines emphasizes the value of their subscriber’s miles, a value that’s about to disappear:

Source: Really Good Emails

Ultimately, maintaining list hygiene is a great way to remove dead weight from your list and allow you to better understand–and better target–the customers interacting with you the most. In some instances after purging a list, open rates increased by more than 25%. This was due to the fact that the initial purge of inactive users increased open rates, and the higher engagement led to better placement in the inboxes of the subscribers who were already engaged.

Refining your list might seem painful at first (no one likes to lose subscribers!) but ultimately it will help you identify the subscribers most likely to engage with you. Better engagement means better results and more revenue.

3. Perform consistently

Another hallmark of spam accounts is the volume at which they send out emails. In order to increase email deliverability, avoid triggering the reputation filter by sending your emails consistently. If one month you send 3 emails a week and the next you send 1 email total, you’re in trouble. Instead, schedule your emails so you know you’re staying consistent.

Another benefit of scheduling your emails is that you can schedule your emails for the times they’re most likely to be opened. When it comes to timing your emails, all days are not equal.

Studies show that your email is more likely to be opened if it arrives in your subscribers’ inbox somewhere between 10 am and 11 am their time, either on a Tuesday or Thursday. Likewise, your email is less likely to be opened if sent closer to the end of the workday or on the weekend.

But every email campaign is unique and what works for others might not work for you. In fact, what worked for your last campaign might not work for this campaign, so it’s important that you are testing your emails and checking the results to see what days and times lead to the greatest engagement.

4. Offer a preference center

Another way the reputation filter functions is to judge how your subscribers are interfacing with your emails. Are they flagging them as spam? Or are they opening and reading them? How many people are regularly unsubscribing from your list?

If your emails are being marked as spam, your future emails are more likely to get blocked and never even make it to the inbox. As the concept of spam is evolving to include more unwanted content instead of just scams, it’s important to send emails only to the people who want to receive them.

This CTA from Bespoke Post directs subscribers to their preference center from the get-go. That way, both subscribers and email marketers know what to expect without any guessing:

Source: Really Good Emails

It’s also important to allow your subscribers some control over how often they’re receiving emails from you. One in four people cite too many emails as the reason they’ve unsubscribed from a list. If people feel you’re overwhelming their inbox, they’re likely to flag your emails as spam as well as unsubscribe.

One method to keep your subscribers happy is to offer a preference center. Instead of having to guess which of your subscribers prefer daily emails and who prefers weekly, a preference center allows them to tell you exactly what they want. Then you can segment your list and deliver all the pertinent information to both groups.

5. Include only people who opt-in

In a similar vein, in order to increase email deliverability you want to send emails only to people who actually signed up for them and never purchase a list. Purchasing a list has far more negative results than positive ones:

  • People are far more likely to unsubscribe since they never subscribed in the first place.
  • People are far more likely to mark as spam since they never authorized you to send them emails.
  • These lists often contain a large number of invalid emails, increasing your bounce rate.
  • Often these lists include honey pots, or emails that are set up to lure spammers.

All of these will lead to your emails being marked as spam and you’ll see a large drop in the effectiveness of your emails. Emailing only the folks who opt-in for your emails doesn’t mean you’ll never experience unsubscribes or being marked as spam, but your rates will stay at a normal level.

A simple and impossible-to-miss opt-in gets the job done without much work at all on your part:

Source: Really Good Emails

6. Code cleanly

In order to increase your email deliverability, improve the quality of your coding and the rest of your content to avoid being flagged as spam by content filters.

Content filters look at the quality of your content by assessing the code, headers and footers, and even the text-to-image ratio of the emails in your marketing campaigns. For instance, if your code is broken or hides a joke for your code-savvy audience like Litmus tried to do, you can trigger a spam filter and never make it to the inbox.

Many spam accounts will use broken code or code that’s complicated in order to hide their more nefarious content from their readers. Remember, malevolent spammers want humans to click on links they shouldn’t so it makes sense their code is convoluted. Yours shouldn’t be. Likewise, if your email contains either one big image, a favorite tactic of spammers trying to avoid spam keywords, you’re likely to get categorized as spam.

55% of emails are now being read on people’s mobile devices, so it’s important to ensure your emails render well on mobile devices as well as on people’s browsers. You can also consider giving your readers the option to view emails in their browser, but nothing beats an email that’s optimized for viewing on mobile.

This Topshop email performs well online as well as on mobile devices:

The great news about code: this is one of the few aspects of deliverability of which you are totally in control. So spend a few extra minutes ensuring everything looks spic and span to see an uptick in your results.

7. Rely on your ESP

Using an email service provider (ESP) can also increase your deliverability. Though an ESP isn’t responsible if you create spammy content, ESPs can provide a solid infrastructure and research, not to mention the relationships and access to ISPs your company might not have on its own.

Additionally, your ESP is dealing with bounce rates, feedback loops, firewalls… and the list goes on. Dedicating an in-house team to these issues will take a lot of time and manpower while your ESP already has people who are used to working around these obstacles. What might take your team days to address, your ESP can knock out in an hour. ESPs have the experience and the data to handle deliverability problems as soon as they arise, not after you’ve noticed a drop in your revenue.

Because ESPs have done research into what can help or harm your marketing campaign, they can advise you on email marketing best practices, offer actionable suggestions to help you improve your targeting, and continuously monitor the changes ISPs make to their algorithms. Though you can probably manage some of these issues yourself, an ESP can implement changes with more efficiency and more data (so there’s no guesswork) than you have access to yourself.

Delegating to an ESP is the very definition of working smarter not harder. Where an ISP is loyal to its customers and their inboxes, an ESP is loyal to you, prioritizing your success. ESPs aren’t a magic pill to fix all your deliverability issues, but with an ESP behind you, there’s a good chance you’ll see an increase in your deliverability.

Wrap up

Again, all the research and divine email inspiration in the world won’t lead to opens, click-throughs, and revenue if your emails never make it in front of anyone’s eyes. Email marketers love to emphasize the importance of segmenting and creating dynamic content, but the reality is 21% of opt-in emails never even make it to the inbox. If your subscribers can’t opt-in, they’ll miss out on all the great content and offerings you have planned.

Deliverability is key if you want to make the most of your email marketing campaigns. If your last email campaign didn’t perform as well as you expected it to, go over these seven tips and see if you don’t see instant improvement in your deliverability.

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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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