Efficiency is essential in everything we do. A golf coach once told his student, “It doesn’t matter how much practice you put in, if your technique is wrong, you’ll only make those bad habits stronger.”
What has golf got to do with email deliverability?
Well, if we keep doing things the way we always did, however much we do them, they’re not going to get any better. If your email campaigns aren’t hitting the sweet spot, just like with your golf clubs, then you need to know why.

Welcome to email deliverability.


What is email deliverability?

Email deliverability is often confused with email delivery. When you don’t get a bounce message, you assume that your email made it through to the ISP safely and its intended recipient. That’s email delivery. As I said, these two terms are often interchanged and misinterpreted.

Email deliverability, however, is all about where your email ends up when it does make it through to its recipients’ mailboxes.

When you debate, design, and create a beautiful email to push promotion, bolster brand confidence, or promote sales, you need that message to land under your customers’ noses. That way, they can read them, be wowed by the content, and hit up your calls to action.

What happens if your email doesn’t land in their inbox, but in their spam folder? You fail. Your message doesn’t get read and has no way of doing its intended job.

In many instances, email deliverability is also known as inbox placement. That’s what we’re aiming for; landing in the inbox, where it can make an impact. Not in the spam, where it gets thrown out with the rubbish.

Why you should monitor your email deliverability rate?

So, the deliverability rate is the percentage of your emails that land in the inbox, not just make it through to the server.

For your messages to have the best chance of conversion, it’s imperative to know how many make it through to your customers’ inboxes instead of going straight to spam. You should be monitoring your data for the relevant statistics and signs of success and failure.

Deliverability rates of over 95% are what you should aim for and keeping your spam rates as low as possible—less than 0.1% ideally.

So, how do you check email deliverability?

How often should you monitor email deliverability?

Regularly and consistently. Admittedly, that’s not always practical, but wherever you can, keep an eye on the figures that count and look for the reasons behind anomalies.

Fixing problems before they happen has less impact on your rates, and in turn, your sender scores—meaning more messages end up exactly where they’re meant.

Regular monitoring at the best rate you can, delivers the information you’ll use to see if there are problems; to look for trends or sudden drops that should set off alarm bells. How you analyze email deliverability revolves around a set of best practices in each of the key areas.

Real-time email deliverability monitoring

Tracking through your delivery software

Your delivery software should be your best friend once you’ve sent out your campaign. There are so many data points to glean from; they can also help segment subscribers and campaigns for optimum results.

Open and click rates are primary goals, but keeping your spam rates as low as possible is key to deliverability.

Inbox monitoring or seed list testing

A common method of testing email performance with the most popular services is to set up email accounts with each of them and market to them yourself. This delivers an email deliverability test that provides real-time results as soon as you send.

You’ll track the email using reporting tools as with any other campaign, but also, you have a chance to see how they operate as they land in each mailbox.

For example, how fast the emails are delivered to each ISP, understanding exactly where they land (given some mail providers segment your mail automatically into tabs or folders), and how they appear from one client to another.

There are far more areas to observe—including a host of technical checks—each highlighting issues you could never know without them. Include them in your process, and you’ll catch far more than you drop.

Email deliverability best practices

Here are the areas to look into and act upon to maximize your deliverability success.

Email authentication

This assures your emails stand the best chance of reaching their target. Using these protocols proves that your email comes from a trusted source and protects its subscribers.

  • Sender Policy Framework (SPF)
  • Sender ID
  • DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM)
  • Domain Message Authentication Reporting & Conformance (DMARC)

Sender reputation/sender score

ISPs have sophisticated algorithms that monitor your domains and IP addresses to organize how trustworthy email senders are. Build your best score and increase your chances of deliverability.

Use dedicated IP addresses and private domains

A shared IP can mean you’re buying into another user’s bad practices—so don’t.

Make it easy to unsubscribe

Prevent subscribers from hitting the spam button by having your unsubscribe link at the top of your email. If they don’t have to waste time and effort looking for it, they’re more likely to use it, instead of sending you to spam.

Keep clean email lists

Email list hygiene plays a huge part in your deliverability. Clearing out subscribers who aren’t engaged with your messages will lower your chances of being marked as spam to get you out of their inboxes.

Verify emails with Bouncer, and secure your email deliverability

Send relevant, interesting content to a targeted audience.

If you send information that people want to read, that’s the best way to keep them engaged. Your open and click rates will remain high, and your spam rates will stay low.

Optimize, optimize, optimize

Take care of ALL the details. Optimize everything you can with A/B testing, spam checkers, email cleansing, and more. Delivery frequency and cadence play a big part too.

Remember, it’s not just how many emails you send, but how often. Don’t leave your subscribers wanting more and don’t overwhelm them; finding the sweet spot is what you’re looking for.

Tools that you could use to monitor deliverability

There are many providers of software, systems, APIs, and more, each with an email deliverability tool for the areas our campaigns can fail. The following suggestions are merely a handful of what’s available.

We’ve broken them down into the key areas that we believe should be included in your process.

Email address verification software

Ensuring your email lists are full of active addresses that won’t return hard bounces is a great way to keep your sender score in check.

  • Bouncer – Our email validation tool is one of the best on the market. Clean up your lists using our independent tool or API integrated with many of the best and most popular delivery systems. It removes disposable and deleted addresses, checks for problem domains, bad MX records, and even badly typed or inappropriate recipients.

Tracking tools

These are the tools that check your emails before you send them for detectable issues, monitors and analyzes them during the sending process, and also on completion.

  • G-LockApps – Finds and fixes problems before delivery, filtering your email from spam folders.
  • 250ok – Monitors deliverability through a selection of spam filters and preview testing.
  • Return Path – Delivers accurate information about your email delivery and improving performance.

Spam checkers

  • Mailtrap – Email testing during development stages. It improves HTML functionality and possible spamming issues by test sending to virtual inboxes.
  • Mail-tester.com – A free, online test tool that checks your campaigns against industry model spam filters.
  • GlockApps – A similar free tool, but emulates sending from different services. The returned results alert you to inbox, spam, or tab placements. It also alerts you to the likelihood of your email landing in Gmail’s promotions tab.

IP address rating and reputation management tools

These tools allow you to monitor your IP and domain reputation. They check for a number of eventualities, but primarily whether either has landed on blacklists that ISPs use to block less than reputable addresses.

  • Senderscore – Identifies the technical issues with your email deliverability. This package uses data from multiple sources to calculate a numeric score based on how your campaigns are performing.

Authentication validation

  • MX Toolbox – Another free, fast and accurate tool. MX Toolbox provides network diagnostics and lookup tools including DNS, blacklists, SPF Records and email header analysis.

Summing up

There are pros and cons to using the deliverability tools we’ve spoken about.

However, if you choose to ignore deliverability and risk that you’re getting things right with a hit and hope mentality, then you’re setting yourself up for the low metrics nobody wants to see.

You’ll be actively reducing your ability to sell, build leads, and boost profit.

We’re not saying there’s anyone perfect system—spam checkers are quick, powerful and easy to use, but they have a limited scope.

Seed list testing will broaden that scope and identify some issues, but they’re not based on real people’s accounts, so the results aren’t totally dependable.

And unless you’re all about the tech, reputation management and monitoring tools can cause more confusion than the questions they answer.

Finding a balance and building on it is a great place to start. Develop the methods you need to stay out of the spam, landing in your recipients’ inboxes, and you’ll reap the benefits.