Email delivery and deliverability

A very common question email marketers ask themselves is whether their emails are reaching their subscribers’ inboxes – and with good reason. After spending hours on creating and optimising your email campaign, of course you want it to be read by your customers. 

There are two factors that affect whether a subscriber receives your emails or not: email delivery and email deliverability. While both terms sound very similar and go hand in hand, there is a difference between the two.

‘Email delivery’ refers to whether emails have been received by the servers of your recipients’ email provider. If an email was sent and did not bounce it is considered ‘delivered’. An email can bounce due to a variety of reasons from misspelled email addresses to servers that are temporarily down. Read more about unreachable contacts here.

Email delivery is therefore the first step in reaching your subscribers.

When we speak about ‘email deliverability’, we are referring to whether your emails actually reach your subscribers’ inboxes or end up in their spam folders. When you send one single email to a co-worker, you can be very confident that they will receive that email. When you are sending a bulk marketing email from a platform like TalkBox the situation is a bit different. This is not because of technical issues in the sending platform but because bulk email can look like spam.

Email providers have filtering systems in place that use certain criteria to determine whether an email is spam or not. Based on these criteria, an email gets accepted or is sent to the recipient’s spam folder. Every email provider has their own criteria for what is considered spam and some email providers’ filters can be stricter than others. This is not always an exact science and the set of spam characteristics can also change over time. Therefore, there can be instances when ‘good’ emails get incorrectly identified as spam and filtered out.

Achieving perfection when it comes to your email deliverability can be challenging and almost impossible but there are some basic things you can do to optimise your deliverability.

How to improve email deliverability

The fundamental best practice to improve your deliverability is to send emails to contacts who want to receive them, with content they expect, and whose permission you have obtained. With that in mind, here are a few tips on how you can improve your email deliverability:

  • Make sure your database is up to date and consists of contacts who have explicitly opted in to receive marketing emails from you. This also means not repurposing an old database from one venue for another.
  • Send valuable and relevant content to your subscribers. The more useful your audience finds your content, the more engaged they will be and the less likely they will be to manually flag your emails as spam.
  • Avoid email content that may trigger spam filters e.g. excessive use of symbols (!?$), all caps or spam trigger words in your subject lines, use a good balance of text to image ratio, keep emails short and sweet, don’t use URL shorteners in your emails, check your image sizes etc. Read how to create attractive emails that load quickly here.
  • Monitor your email engagement e.g. open and click rates and review your subject lines and email frequency. These are metrics that can help you determine the best times to send your emails, what content has had the best engagement, which subject lines may have led to undesirable results and whether you may have been sending your emails too frequently. Watch our video on communication reports to learn more about these metrics here.
  • Avoid using a free email address (gmail, hotmail, etc..) as the sender address since these domains are much stricter on their authentication and spam detection which can lead to your emails being treated as spam.
Updated on December 14, 2020

Was this article helpful?

Related Articles