Email Deliverability Explained

When you send an email, do you send it in a fire and forget mode? Once you click the send button you just assume it will get to it’s destination. For most of your emails, this is just fine. If an email does not make it, you will probably realize it when you do not receive a reply. You’ll figure the Internet daemons swallowed it and the typical response is to resend the email.

This mode works fine most of the time for you personal and business emails. However it is a recipe for disaster for any type of automated correspondence. When you are sending to an email list, there are four primary reasons your email never gets delivered to your clients inbox.

First is irrelevant content. All, I repeat, ALL modern email clients make it very easy to mark individual emails as spam with one (1) click. Once you have been marked as spam, the email clients learn. After just a few emails marked as spam (could be 1 depending on the email client), all future emails from you will probably be sent straight to a user’s spam folder. The way to combat this is to send relevant content. If the user expects good content from you, they will not mark you as spam. Be vigilant with the content of every email you send. It only takes one errant email to get you marked as spam.

Second, large email providers (Yahoo, Comcast, Hotmail, AOL, Gmail, etc) will give you a double whammy when a user marks you as spam. The immediate action is to put any future emails from you into the users spam folder. The bigger consequence is you have just been added to an internal list for the email provider and any future emails to other clients can be marked as spam. Think of this as double secret probation. Each email provider has a different threshold for the number of complaints before they will start marking all emails from you to any of their other users as spam and your email will never make it to the inbox. The best way to combat this is to have relevant content. No secret there.

In addition having a relationship with the large email providers is critical. With relationships you can have the email provider notify you of the complaint. Once notified you should automatically unsubscribe the user immediately. By doing this you remove the risk of sending to the client who complained (besides, the email to that client will never make it to the inbox again anyway). Email providers frown on sending emails once a users complains. In this day and age where spam is rampant, the email providers work extra hard to filter email and provide a good experience from their customers point of view – not yours. That means removing anything that looks like spam particularly if the user told them it was spam. By continuing to send emails to a user who has complained about you, you are just asking to be marked as a spammer for all of your clients using that provider. Whatever solution you use, make sure they have relationships with the email providers.

Third, email service providers talk. If you are flagged as a spammer on one, it is only a matter of time before all will see you as a spammer. This is a trickier one as it comes down to your reputation. By doing the recommendations above, good content, relationships with the large email providers, the next step is to actually use rating services that monitor your email reputation. There are services out there that you can work with that will help you maintain your email reputation.

Fourth and finally, there are a myriad of technical details to sending lots of emails. If you miss even one or do one wrong, you could be marked as a spammer very quickly. To send emails you need to make sure the email format is correct and follows the correct standards (e.g., there is a difference between sending plain text emails, HTML emails, or an email with both), the IP you send the email from must be configured correctly, a reverse DNS entry must be setup, you must sign each email to authenticate (prove) who the sender is using DKIM and Sender ID, your SPF record is setup correct, and then you move onto the even more technical details than this high level list.

Whatever solution you use, you need to make sure it/they are capable of providing the technical details of sending emails. It is a complicated world being a legitimate sender; but it is very easy using the right partner. Once you have the technical side covered, the best mechanism for getting your emails through is building a relationship with you customers by sending them good, quality, relevant content. In this world where everyone is buried with information, standing out form the crowd is hard. Make sure you are one of them by having a good relationship with your clients.