email deliverability

Let’s talk about email deliverability.

What’s Email Deliverability?

No matter how beautifully written your email copy is, or how well you understand your list, your emails won’t help you if your readers never see them. Email deliverability is the process of ensuring your email messages reach the inbox of the recipient rather than the dreaded spam folder.

Active Campaign estimates that one in five emails get sent to the spam folder. There are many factors that affect deliverability and this post will help you understand what to watch out for.

9 Ways to Better Deliverability

  1. Keep your list clean. Only send to contacts who have specifically opted in to your list. You may think it’s better to have a bigger list, but those extra numbers are not helpful if they are unengaged. They may also mark your message as spam if they aren’t expecting it, and that can seriously hurt email deliverability. Consider purging your list of contact who haven’t opened your emails recently. Active Campaign recommends removing contacts who haven’t opened an email in th past 12 – 24 months. Never buy or rent an email list and never add a contact to your list without their express opt in. This is against the law.
  2. Check your email provider’s spam check before sending. Most services will flag any subject line that contains words or phrases commonly associated with spammers, such as words in all caps, the word. Here’s a list of spam words to avoid in your subject lines. (link to above) Also avoid colored text and multiple exclamation points (which you should never use anyway).
  3. Make your emails engaging. The more engagement your readers have with your messages, the higher your email deliverability rate will be. Large email services such as Gmail and Hotmail will deliver emails from high-engagement domains more often than low-engagement messages. Be sure your subject line draws the reader in makes them want to open. If it fits your brand, use emoji in your subject line; although it isn’t fully proven that emojis increase open rates, they can sometimes catch the eye and highlight important words in the subject line.
  4. Use personalization. The more specific and relevant the email is to the recipient, the more likely they will open it. My favorite women’s clothing store sends me emails that are obviously personalized, as they reflect what I’ve previously purchased, and browsed on their site. I always open their emails and almost always click. Personalization increases open rate, which, in turn, increases email deliverability.
  5. Make it easy to unsubscribe. Don’t make your reader hunt for the unsubscribe link, otherwise they may get frustrated and report you for spam. It’s better that they leave your list than hang around and ignore, or worse yet, hit the “spam” link.
  6. Consider double opt-in. Double opt-in requires the new subscriber to confirm their email address before they are added to your list. It’s another step in the signup process that some marketers resist, but it does generally result in a better list. If they are willing to go through the extra step, you can assume they are at least somewhat committed to reading what you’ll be sending them.
  7. Be careful with links in your email. Don’t use link shortening services as they are often used by spammers, or display the full URL — use anchor text such as “click here” or “read more.”
  8. Be sure your sender name is recognizable and represents the brand your contact is familiar with. Use your name or your business name so that the reader will know it immediately.
  9. Use a mixture of text and images. Some experts will tell you that text-only messages result in higher email deliverability. This may or may not be true for your list. Text-only emails have not shown to result in higher email deliverability. The only way you’ll know for sure is to test on your list. Never send an email that is exclusively an image, as there are still those who set their email clients not to open them, which will hurt your open rate, and, in turn, deliverability.

Here are some guidelines for words to avoid from Active Campaign to help you stay out of the spam filter:

  • Words that make exaggerated claims and promises
  • Words that create unnecessary urgency and pressure
  • Words that are jargon or legalese
email deliverability

Your email provider can penalize you or suspend your service if you damage the reputation of their email sending IP address. Email providers like Gmail use this reputation to determine which emails end up in the spam folder. Providers can penalize you for purchasing email address lists, having invalid addresses on your list, or failing to keep your list clean.

I often compare email marketing to an invitation to a contact’s living room. Practice good manners when you’re invited to the inbox. Establish a consistent email schedule — once a week is good for many businesses — and stick to it. Be sure your emails are relevant, interesting and stimulate the reader to think and engage. Above all, make sure you’re bringing value to the inbox.

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