The Basics of Email Deliverability

Email is one of the most reliable forms of communication for marketers. It's an ideal tool for increasing awareness, communicating sales offers and promoting your business. It can be used to create new contacts, drive revenue and re-engage lost customers. But...not if it isn't delivered.

Can you imagine if the United States Post Office was consistently and regularly changing the rules for which pieces of mail they deliver?

As quickly as ISP's come up with new ways to stop the endless stream of spam, spammers come up with new ways to avoid them. And many legitimate, rule following, white hat marketers are finding themselves caught up in the deliverability mess.

Email Deliverability and Why It Matters

Do you have the spam filter blues? Email deliverability can be a depressingly technical subject, but that doesn't mean it's impossible.

More importantly, paying attention to deliverability is something you need to do. If you are spending time, money and effort to create the campaigns, why not spend a bit more time to ensure deliverability?

By focusing on three variables: Technical, List Management and Email Send Policy, inbound marketers can avoid spam traps and ensure deliverability.

First, take a look at technical techniques for improving deliverability.


Create a subdomain for email

By creating a subdomain for email, marketers can protect their business IP reputation and minimize fallout if you happen to end up on a blacklist, because corporate email will not be affected. This also allows marketers to monitor and trouble shoot domain issues if they come up.

Warm up your ISP

Start off sending a small quantity of emails. Your ISP will begin to recognize your domain as a trusted sender. A massive blast from an unknown domain is a big red alert to ISP's. Make sure you can communicate with your ISP by setting up an This allows ISPs to be able to communicate information back to you. Having an open tool for communication with your ISP protects you from looking like a spammer and eases trouble shooting if needed.

Check your Sender Score

Sender Score is a free online tool that assigns a number to every outgoing mail server. The score is calculated by using the traditional email metrics such as unsubscribes and spam reports. ISP's can blacklist senders that fall below a specific score.

Sender Policy Framework

Putting an SPF (Sender Policy Framework) in place allows ISP's to cross check the domain name against the associated IP address to make sure that it is legitimate. But perhaps more importantly, not having an SPF in place can signal "Spammer" to ISP's.

Check Black Lists

Marketers can check black lists online, services created to protect users from IPs that have received a high volume of spam reports.

Consider an ESP

It's the job of an email service provider to, well, provide email service. These large companies survive and thrive based on deliverability. With continuous monitoring and cutting edge knowledge, these services can detect and trouble shoot problems quickly and efficiently. If you do not have the time and wherewithal to feel confident in your own domain deliverability, an ESP may be an option.

List Management

Having a clean and responsive list is the 2nd aspect of deliverability that needs to be addressed. Mailing with a clean list increases your credibility by proving to ISP's your dedication to quality and that you are a legitimate marketer.

  1. Review your sources - Never email someone that has not consented to receive email from you company. Dig into the sources of your list. Tricky contests, misleading gimmicks and purchased lists can lead to high opt out rates and can attract the eyes of the ISP's. If ISP's suspect your list isn't prepared to hear from you, they probably will send it to the spam black hole.
  2. Remove hard bounces ASAP - Remove hard bounces, unresponsive subscribers and soft bounces (when appropriate). ISP's watch bounce rates and can reduce deliverability if your list seems to contain a lot of hard bounces. Removing hard bounces is an easy and quick so add this to your regular email process.
  3. Delete soft bounces and unresponsive emails: Pick a time frame and stick with it for soft bounces and non-responders. If an email has soft bounced 3-4 times, take a closer look and see if you can fix it. If not, remove it. And if someone hasn't responded for say six months to a year, it may be time to delete.
  4. Put a double optin policy in place - A double optin requires subscribers to open and click on a link in an email before they are officially added to the email database. Double Optin lists have a much higher deliverability and open rate.

Email Send Policy

The email send policy that a marketer puts in place is really just about having good manners. Be respectful of your list and the ISP's and they will love you back. Here are 4 tips to creating an advantageous email send policy.

  1. Frequency - Don't over mail. What is over mailing? It requires some testing to decide on your lists ideal frequency. Watch opens and opt out rates. A good rule of thumb is about once a week. It all comes back to content. If you don't have something great to send, hold off until you do.
  2. From line & email address - The from line (sender name) and email address should be consistent, branded and recognized. Choose a well known employee name, your brand, product or business name. Use a legitimate from email address, such as versus
  3. Spam filters in subject line - Avoid deceptive subject lines and words like "free". Subject lines are SO important, as a matter of fact, we've written a bunch of blog posts about it. The gist of it? Avoid deception and make sure whatever is offered in the subject line is included in the body of the email.
  4. Don't act spammy -It can be tempting to throw in a subject line or offer that you know will increase opens rates that doesn't quite live up to the slick marketing you've created to package it. Bottom line, rely on great offers and valuable content your subscribers want to read about.

Get that email into inboxes!! Protect your investment in email marketing by incorporating the best practices above into your day to day processes for email and watch those spam filter blues become a thing of the past.

Even better? Enjoy higher open rates and drive more profit from email marketing.

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