In 2019, Google utilized its in-house machine learning framework, TensorFlow, to increase their spam filters resulting in Gmail blocking an additional 100 million spam emails. This recent spam filter update got us thinking – “What do we need to do to improve email deliverability in 2020?” To answer this question, we collaborated with our partner Socketlabs to tackle the issue of email deliverability.
Marketers around the globe invest hours in curating relevant content, segmenting audiences, creating personalised emails to make sure they create great email marketing campaigns. Nevertheless, there is nothing more disheartening than learning that your email will never be opened due to its placement in the spam folder.
Often used interchangeably, delivery and deliverability are two different metrics which are used to measure the success of your email campaign. Hitting a high delivery rate is essential. However, landing the email in the inbox is imperative for any successful marketing campaign.
Deliverability vs Delivery?
According to email marketing platform, Campaign Monitor, ‘Email deliverability is the ability to deliver emails to subscribers’ inboxes. It is what some marketers use to gauge the likelihood of their email campaigns reaching their subscribers’ inboxes related to actual delivery–like ISPs, throttling, bounces, spam issues, and bulking.
Elements that hurt deliverability include:
- sending without custom authentication
- using single opt-in
- sending from a free domain email address
- using spam keywords in subject lines
- making it difficult to unsubscribe
- using short URLs
- and sending emails with too many images
On the other hand, delivery is a mere acceptance of the email by the mailbox provider e.g. Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo etc. This means every email which does not bounce back is considered delivered. The placement of the email is not factored in this metric. Your campaigns can have an average delivery rate of 90% with some soft/hard bounces. However, your email still might never make it to the inbox. The mailbox providers can receive the email, but the spam filters can still place your email in the spam folder. So, even with a high delivery rate, you can still have low deliverability.
Since your email service providers (ESP) lack insight on the placement of the emails, how will you determine your performance in terms of deliverability? Brian Godiksen, Email Delivery Manager from SocketLabs, informed us that the three imperative factors that impact deliverability are “domain reputation, email authentication, and custom DKIM.”
Factors affecting deliverability
Let’s explore these three areas affecting deliverability in more detail.
1. Email Reputation
Acting as a gatekeeper, each inbox service providers (ISP) inspects the email as per their algorithm. However, they consider sender reputation a critical factor to determine if your email belongs to the inbox. As per email deliverability experts, ReturnPath, sender reputation is a calculation of all previous actions taken by a sending IP address, both good and bad’.
The score ranges from 1 to 100, like a high credit score can help you get better financial services, a high sender reputation score can imply that your inbox service provider is likely to place your emails into the inbox. According to Microsoft, more than 90% of CustomerMinds emails are placed in the Inbox, as informed by Godiksen from SocketLabs.
There are two types of email reputation, IP Reputation and Domain Reputation. An IP reputation counts in key metrics like bounces, spam traps, frequency of the emails, volume, complaints and whether the email contains any negative or spam content.
IP reputation is determined on the IP level. This means the domain reputation factors the usage of your domain. As IPs can vary based on servers and providers, your domain is a more precise indicator of the sending history, and hence, some ISPs pay more attention to domain reputation rather than IP reputation. Godiksen from Socketlabs states, Gmail relies highly on the domain reputation while determining the placement of your emails.
2. Email Authentication
Email Authentication is taking ownership and accountability of your emails by attaching an ID to your domain name. Authenticating your email helps the inbox service providers to recognize you and further improves your IP reputation which in-turn will improve your placement in the inbox i.e. higher deliverability.
The process of authentication is as follows:
- The mailbox provider receives an email from email@example.com
- The provider then runs a check on the where the email originated from
- Followed by inspecting if the IP address has the permission to send emails on behalf of domainname.com
3. Custom DKIM
SocketLabs states that “DKIM is an email authentication mechanism that allows the recipient mail server to check if a message has been altered during transit. This is done by the recipient server checking and verifying an encrypted signature left on the message by the sending server to ensure the message arrived in the same form that it was sent”. Email clients inspect incoming emails for a valid DKIM to identify the sender. Having a valid DKIM setup will improve your email deliverability and your sender reputation.
Email Deliverability Test Tools
To ensure you avoid deliverability issues, we suggest using email deliverability test tools. Below are some tools you can use before activating your campaign.
Here are three tools that you can start using for free:
When visiting Mail-Tester.com, you will be shown an auto-generated email address listed. This email address is unique to each time you visit the website. You can send your email to the address listed, then click “Check Your Score.” Mail-Tester will then give you a free email deliverability score based on the email that was sent to the unique email address.
Spamcheck is an easy-to-use and free tool that allows users to paste a plain text message into a text box and analyze it for any language that might trigger spam filtering. After placing the text and clicking “Check your score,” the software will give you a score out of 10 based on what’s included and not included in the email body.
MxToolBox allows you to test your email deliverability by sending a test email to firstname.lastname@example.org. This email address will reply to the email with a linked call to action that says “View your full Deliverability Report.” You can then click on the CTA to see a deliverability score and information about what might stopping your email from going into inboxes.