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The fundamentals of email deliverability

If you're in the game of sending emails, the term deliverability will likely have popped up (or is about to). Today we'll help you navigate one of the most misunderstood aspects of email marketing.

Post boxes lined up representing delivery

The fundamentals of email deliverability: Getting started

If you spend time learning about email, creating unforgettable campaigns and growing your audience, you're on the right track. However, these all become meaningless if your emails are reaching your subscribers in their inboxes. Today's learning revolves around helping you hit the inbox and ensuring the time and effort you're putting into your email campaigns don't go to waste.

We're going to cover the fundamentals of email deliverability, how you can maintain your deliverability and what to look out for to ensure your emails hit the inbox.

What the heck is email deliverability?

To explain deliverability as concisely as possible, it's the term used to describe the number of emails you send that actually hit the inbox.

Deliverability is often confused with email delivery rates. While deliverability is solely concerned with ensuring emails hit the right folder in someone's inbox, your email delivery rate is determined by your sending platform's ability to get your recipients' inboxes to accept the email.

It all sounds quite complex, but here's the distinguishing factor:

You have quite a bit of control over your deliverability rates, but your email platform controls email delivery rates.

These go hand-in-hand, which is why finding a great email platform that focuses on this is crucial.

Why does deliverability matter?

It should be pretty self-explanatory, but if you're sending emails and they're winding up in the junk folder, then you're wasting your time.

Deliverability and maintaining your ability to hit the inbox also give you an edge over your competition. According to research, almost 20% of emails either go to spam or remain undelivered. That's 1 in 5 people who you'll reach over your competitors (if you get this right, of course).

You may be wondering what a good deliverability rate is. Statistically, 85% and higher is where you should be aiming. Anytime your deliverability remains over 95%, you're doing an amazing job.

What affects deliverability?

There are various ways your deliverability can be impacted. The most common reasons for deliverability issues include:

  • Getting spam complaints on your emails

  • Low open rates and engagement in your emails

  • Absence of email authentication (more on this below)

  • Your email-sending platform's server reputation

Deliverability issues aren't merely limited to these, but they're a good place to start.

Let's discuss a few ways to test, track and improve your deliverability, as well as touch on something slightly technical you're going to want to look into if you're keen to improve your deliverability rate.

Close up of rows of cans of spam

Testing your email deliverability

You won't know what to improve unless you know what's (potentially) not working. Here are a few (mostly) free tools by Mailtrap you can use to measure different components of your email deliverability:

  • Sender Score: Allows you to test your domain reputation and “sender score” for each IP address that you’re sending emails from.

  • MXToolbox: This site and the tools it provides are used by email experts across the globe. These tools include black-list checks and a host of other tools to help maintain email reputation health.

  • / / Spamcheck by Postmark: These are a few additional tools for basic reputation checks. We've mentioned some of these in previous volumes too!

Improving your email deliverability

Deliverability issues can be avoided! If your emails aren't reaching the inbox, here are 5 ways you can improve your deliverability rates:

  • Keep a clean list and engagement levels up: One of the biggest determinants of which folder your emails will wind up in is engagement. By keeping a clean list, you'll get higher engagement, resulting in better deliverability.

  • Avoid using your personal email address: If you're sending from a personal inbox in a bulk fashion, the likelihood of winding up in spam extrapolates. rather use a business or professional domain to avoid the junk folder.

  • Keep a consistent email-sending schedule: Readers and ISPs who monitor your email reputation trust consistency. If your email sending is erratic and surprising, you're far more likely to wind up in the junk folder.

  • Keep a reputation management schedule: Regularly check to determine if aspects of your emails are contributing to deliverability issues. If you stick to a plan and make sure this regular monitoring is in place, you'll likely prevent issues before they become major issues.

  • Authenticate your emails: The role of email authentication is to confirm that you, the sender, are who you say you are. This makes it much harder for spoofers and spammers to impersonate you. The three major authentication protocols include DKIM, SPF and DMARC​​​.

Here's where we get a little technical. Don't skip this - We've tried to make this as brief and easy to understand as possible 😉

Timelapse photo of person typing really quickly on a laptop, only hands in frame

A brief overview of email authentication: DKIM, SPF and DMARC

No, this isn't some form of Gen-Z slang you don't know (yeah, I'm that old👀). These actually stand for some of your best friends in email.

  • SPF: SPF is a form of email sender authentication. It validates if an email was sent from an authorized IP address, meaning that domain owners specify the list of IP addresses (mail servers) that are authorised to send emails from a given domain. The advantage is that SPF helps boost the delivery and deliverability rates of your emails, so why not use this, right?

  • DKIM: DKIM is a form of domain authentication. This digital signature is attached to an email, encoded at the moment of sending, and validated when an email is about to arrive at a recipient. Combining SPF and DKIM is a highly recommended email practice. You're letting inboxes know that you're trusted and that what you're sending is legitimate.

  • DMARC: DMARC is not an authentication method, strictly speaking. It builds on SPF and DKIM and adds another level of security, known as domain alignment. DMARC also allows you to set up a policy for failed checks and can help generate email performance reports. All of these features combined make it the most reliable measure you can take against spoofing.

Many of these tips and a ton of in-depth information on this topic can be found here. For you folks who prefer images over reading, this summary might help:

infographic explaining SPF, DKIM and DMARC

Making sure you get to the inbox, on time, every time

Email deliverability is, (un)fortunately an ongoing practice. Fortunately, you're very much in control of your ability to keep your emails in the inbox. Unfortunately, it's not a one-and-done thing. It takes a little work and good email practices to keep yourself out of spam.

Keep this in mind and keep up to date with developments in the email world. To help you do this better, we've curated a few helpful resources you can dive into further around this topic:

  • Mailtrap - Email deliverability: Everything you need to know

  • Designmodo - Guide to email deliverability

  • Clean Email - How to test email deliverability

  • Folderly - Advanced guide to email deliverability monitoring

  • Lemwarm - Email deliverability metrics

As a parting bit of help, here's a great checklist you can use as a guide to nailing your email deliverability by Mailtrap:

Email deliverability checklist infographic

Now get out there and get your emails to the inbox 💌

In case you missed it, click here to grab a copy of our detailed Database Growth Playbook for Email Marketing to help you grow your database further and support your efforts 👇

Preview of the Ultimate Database Growth Playbook for Email Marketing by Email Expert Africa

Want more tips like these? Get our expert email guide today! Click here to find out more

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