Sendlane's guide to Email Deliverability in 2020

Email deliverability.

They’re two of the most important words in email marketing, and yet, many don’t have the facts straight about what it is and why it’s so important in the first place.

Naturally, when we send email campaigns we want them to land in our subscriber’s inbox. But with an average open-rate of just 15% many eCommerce brands struggle to get their emails in the inbox and then opened.

Getting a handle on your email deliverability isn’t just a nice thing to chat about. If you can improve your deliverability, you increase the amount of emails ending up in inboxes thus upping your chance for better open-rates.

Email deliverability has a large impact on your email marketing ROI. This guide will help you understand what it really is and how you can improve to help your email marketing efforts drive your online business through the year and beyond.

What is Email Deliverability, Really?

So to jump off this guide, we want to start with the basics of what email deliverability is.

In layman’s terms, email deliverability is a term used by those who send marketing or transactional emails that successfully manage to make it into the inbox of the intended receiver.

The more emails that make it to inboxes the better your email deliverability rate is, and of course the more sales you’ll see come through from your emails. However, both gauging your email deliverability and maintaining it are difficult.

For gauging your current standing, you may find it useful to look at various stats and metrics in your current ESP. Things like:

  • Open-rate and CTR. Looking for any dips in either one can show a bad delivery rate.
  • Bounce rate and hard bounce rate. An increase can indicate a bad delivery rate.

The truth is those metrics only scratch the surface and don’t give you a clear idea of the actual hidden factor impacting your email deliverability.

Your Sender Reputation.

What’s that exactly? Well it’s not something you’re going to find in your metrics. You’ll have to dig a bit deeper than that.

So let’s do a bit of digging.

Your Sender Reputation and Behavior-Based Inboxing

First off, let’s answer the main question.

What’s your Sender Reputation?

Your Email Sender Reputation is a score given to you by an inbox provider (Gmail, Outlook, Apple Mail, etc.) to measure and understand your email sending habits and how they measure up to the provider’s standards.

There are quite a few factors that inbox providers use to measure your reputation. Here are some of them:

  • Your recipient's engagement. This would be things like opens and clicks, but it’s more than that. Engagement can be positive or negative. Positive engagement would include how often people open your emails or forward them to others. Negative engagement which will adversely affect your score would be how often your emails are deleted, how many spam complaints you get and your unsubscribe rate. Ultimately, the better positive engagement you have, the better their interaction with your emails will be.
  • Email content. This all about what you send them. Is the content unique? Is it the same as what others are sending (copy and paste.) Are your links trustworthy? These are the sort of things that inbox providers will look at too.  
  • Spam complaints. How often are people marking your emails as spam? This is probably the most impactful metric. Having just a small 0.08% can get you in trouble with Gmail, while most other providers still consider a 0.2% high.
  • Sender email address. Nowadays, you can’t send mass emails from an ESP with an @gmail, @hotmail or anywhere in between. Usually, the email should be from a real person in the company that another person can reply to. This establishes a person-to-person communication experience that digital companies who wish to humanize their brand should aim for. General speaking, addresses like support@xyz.com or info@xyz.com and other popular business email addresses should be avoided for promotional emails or newsletters.Oh and make sure you have an actual website attached to the domain as well. Having the site secure with a SSL certificate is even better.
  • Your ESPs reputation. Okay, so this one is a pretty big one, and I listed it last here so you're less likely to glance through it. But it’s important enough that I’m going to give it its own section in the next section.

Every inbox provider (like gmail, yahoo, outlook)  is different in that one may put you in your contact’s inbox and another might send you to junk mail. This is due to each provider using their own artificial intelligence to measure inbox behavior.

Behavior-based inboxing isn’t something you can control. However, you can get a view of how your email is received by these various inboxes by creating seed email accounts.

What are those exactly? I’m glad you asked.

A seed email is an email account you create with these various inbox providers (Gmail, Outlook, etc.) to use for your email marketing tests. Just to emphasize the point, you add these emails to your email list but you do not use these emails for anything other than viewing where you emails land in those inboxes.

Doing this gives you a better grasp of how your emails are filtered in various inboxes and if that changes over time with your efforts to improve your Sender Reputation.

Your ESP Tool Matters A Lot More Than You Think

Earlier I mentioned that your ESPs reputation has a play in your email deliverability, and that’s true. You can be doing all the right things and still have low email deliverability if your ESPs reputation is less than stellar.

Now, keep in mind, it’s not entirely an ESPs fault if they have a not-so-good reputation. Their reputation is based on the sender scores of their users. So if they have a lot of poor senders, they’ll likely have a low score themselves

And in case you’re curious, Sendlane has one of the best ESP sender reputations around.

How To Maintain a Good Sender Reputation

Now that you know how to discover your Email Sender Reputation, it’s good to cover how to improve and maintain it.

Thankfully, the tips below aren’t difficult to do and help you with your overall reputation.

1. Engage In List Hygiene

List Hygiene is the practice of occasionally scrubbing your email list of those who have proven to be totally uninterested in your emails or of other Spam Traps.

This is an important part of improving and maintaining a good score. A clean list means a list full of engaged and interested people who open, click and even forward your email to others.

You may need to do this manually, but some ESPs, like Sendlane, automate the list hygiene process for you.

2. Create Sub-Accounts for Different Email Types

Your eCommerce business is not one dimensional and your email Send-From account shouldn't be either. Diversifying the email accounts you send from and using them for their various purposes is a great way to help your emails land in more inboxes.

For example, you could have your newsletter come from a person within your company like alexb@xyz.com. Customer service based emails might be from someone in charge of that part of the business (which we highly recommend) or a generic address like xyzcusomterservice@xyz.com or orders@xyz.com.

You don’t need a hundred sub-accounts to send from, but a handful can go a long way in helping build out your brand and brand trust as you let your customers see the names and faces behind the scenes.

3. Pay Close Attention To Your Data

Even though they can’t give you the exact sender reputation score, your metrics can tell you a lot about what’s going on with your email marketing efforts.

Open-rates, CTRs for both newsletters and automated messages can give you a pulse on how your emails are resonating with your audience. Making improvements to your subject lines can improve open-rates, and a/b testing your button copy can improve CTR.

Either way, don’t ignore your data. Use it to help you as you move through the year.

4. Personalize, Adjust, and Personalize Some More

People respond to offers and content that is personalized to them and their interests. And yes, using someone’s first name is part of that but it goes deeper than just using their name.

Tools like Sendlane’s behavior-based marketing automation can help you send more personalized content that curtails to each of your subscribers. As you use marketing automation to your advantage to help you personalize, be sure to take a look at the date of your various funnels and test new things to make improvements.

Then keep your funnels rolling.

5. Make Sure You Collect Consent

With laws like GDPR and CCPA it’s become even more important to make sure you get subscribers consent to send them emails.

While consent may not seem to improve sender score, it does in its own way. As you collect that consent from your subscribers you will increase the trustworthiness of your brand. That goes a long way in getting emails opened and gaining sales.

Ultimately, that’s what we all want from your email marketing, right?

Email Deliverability: Keep It In Check in 2020

Email marketing and landing in that inbox continues to be the battleground brands will always fight to conquer. Improving your email deliverability will no doubt have a profound impact on your email marketing success.

Want to dive a little deeper into email deliverability?

Check out our free eBook — Inbox Better 2020 Edition

You'll get instant access to the power of testing and dissecting results for maximum deliverability, the rules of SEO that are applied to email marketing in 2020, the deadly email curse words (and how to avoid the pesky spam filter, the best times to send your emails, and so much more

So go ahead and grab that eBook for free right here.

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Caitlin Hutchinson
Brand Marketing Manager
Sendlane

A native of San Diego, California, Caitlin has a passion for developing creative and engaging marketing content. Primarily responsible for overseeing the development, execution and delivery of digital content across all of Sendlane’s channels while maintaining an online presence of Sendlane's team culture. Host of The Marketing Automation Hustle Podcast and Sendlane Youtube Training Channel. Works closely with the marketing team to manage creative projects and develop creative assets/solutions to enhance the brand. Collaborates at the intersection of marketing, product, content, and sales to develop powerful and memorable stories and interactive experiences that bring the Sendlane vision to life.

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