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What is email deliverability?

In simple words, email deliverability is the likelihood of your email reaching the INBOX of the recipient.

Naturally, you would ask – where else would it go?

An email’s journey to the inbox

From the time that your email leaves from your browser till it reaches the inbox of your recipient, it seems like a split second. But that email has crossed many hurdles within that split second.

Hurdle #1 -Validity of recipient’s email address

Have you sent your email to a valid email address? If not, you will get a hard email bounce. This can happen due to a few reasons – typo, incorrect domain etc.

But most commonly, this happens for email addresses that are too old. They were valid and active at some point but they have been closed now.

This is much more common with business email addresses, than with personal email IDs. People leave their jobs, companies close down, sometime they just change their domain name. In general if you have a business email address that is more than 2 years old, there is a good chance that it isn’t valid anymore.

Hurdle #2 – Technical problems at server

Let’s say you have a valid email address, then your email would be able to reach the ’email server’ of your recipient.

But even then, certain technical problems can result in a soft bounce.

It can happen for different reasons:

  • Recipient’s mailbox was full (the user is over their quota)
  • Email server was down
  • The message was too large for the recipient’s inbox
  • Server detected possible malware in your email
  • Certain attachments are not accepted by the server

From your side you can only ensure that your email text and attached file are generally acceptable to email servers.

Hurdle #3 – Blocking by ISPs or email service providers

ISPs are “Internet Service Providers”. Earlier only the companies like AOL, Comcast etc. were called ISPs. But now the term is broadly used to include companies like Google, Outlook, Yahoo who provide email clients. They are more of email service providers but still sometimes referred to as ISPs.

These email service providers often market themselves for their ability to keep their customer’s inbox free of spam and fraudulent emails.

That’s why they check each email for –

  • Email content – to weed out emails with spammy, phishing or fraudulent looking content. They also look for suspicious looking images and links which are blacklisted by others.
  • Sender’s email address and IP – if the sender’s email ID or IP address is marked by others for sending spam, it’s a red flag.
  • Customer’s preferences and previous spam records – if the email recipient has marked certain kind of emails (for example, newsletters) as spam in the past.

This is a comparatively more difficult hurdle for email marketer’s to clear. As the email marketing world gets more competitive, it is going to take even more work for the marketers to differentiate themselves from other who are marked as spam.

Hurdle #4 – The actual SPAM filter

Even if your email gets past the ISP block, it is still possible that your recipient has installed another SPAM filter to block a certain kind of emails. People tend to block marketing and promotional emails if they receive them too many times.

So if you’re sending too many emails to people who don’t open them, you are running a very real risk of getting marked as SPAM and creating this hurdle for yourself.

But that doesn't stop there. If too many people mark your emails as SPAM, then the risk expands to Hurdle #3 level. In that case the ISPs will mark your email address and IP address as the origin of SPAM. Ooops -you've just added another hurdle.

Finally, getting to the inbox

Only after crossing all these hurdles, your email can arrive in the inbox and consider itself delivered!

For email marketers and sales teams sending cold emails, these hurdles can be difficult to cross each time. Consider the fact that – 45% of all emails are marked as SPAM.

Then you get a hang of how important the “email deliverability” factor is.

When you invest your marketing dollars and time into writing emails, building prospect lists, you would naturally want to maximize the email deliverability of your emails. Which is to say – maximizing the likelihood that your emails make it through all the way to inboxes.

Simple tips to improve email deliverability

  • Never buy a mailing list. You don’t know of the quality or authenticity of these emails and you will end up with too many bounced emails.
  • Set up separate domain and email addresses for marketing purposes. You minimize the risk of damaging your main domain reputation, in case your emails get marked as spam.
  • Avoid sending bulk email blasts. They increase the likelihood of getting filtered by ISPs.
  • Invest more time and thought in writing emails your audience will find interesting. Otherwise, what is even the point of sending those emails?
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