Email Deliverability and How It Affects Your Digital Marketing

by Nicky Copland | April 21, 2021

Email marketing is the red-headed stepchild of the marketing world. Is it performed on a digital platform? Yes, but does it involve SEO and traditional digital marketing tactics like keywords and demographic targeting? No, yet it doesn’t involve sending postcards, sponsoring events, developing sales materials… you get my point.

Email sits between marketers’ perceptions of what constitutes traditional versus digital marketing. Why? Because it’s been a staple of the marketing mix for so long. It has a life of its own now that people check emails almost constantly on their mobile devices. In a sense, you could argue it’s almost a form of out-of-home marketing as well!

Regardless of how you classify email marketing, there’s a huge chance it’s part of the mix at your organization. Without a doubt, it affects the success of your strategy on all fronts.

There is one key element of creating a successful email marketing program to supplement digital and traditional marketing tactics. It is something not many people understand or even know.

It’s email deliverability.

Not delivery. Deliverability. There’s a big difference.

Delivery Versus Deliverability

When speaking on delivery, you’re only considering how many emails reach the inboxes of your intended recipients. A key distinction: Delivery doesn’t give you the detail you need. It doesn’t help you understand where emails were delivered. How many were delivered to an inbox and how many were delivered to spam? For lots of marketers, this is definitely a meaningful distinction.

Email deliverability, on the other hand, is the holistic view of your entire email program’s performance. Deliverability considers delivery as well as detailed email placement. The amount of engagement received and the treatment of your email by mailbox providers matters. It highlights additional in-depth information allowing you to optimize your performance. 

Think of it like this: Delivery is the pepperoni while deliverability is the whole dang pizza. You can’t really have one without the other, arguably, but both are decidedly different.

What Affects Email Deliverability

The broadest term to explain the biggest factor affecting your deliverability is your email sender reputation. But as I said, this is a very broad concept and like deliverability, consists of several smaller components.

While almost all of the factors contributing to your sender reputation deserve more in-depth explanations with examples and best practices, we’ll keep it general here. If these leave you with questions, just let me know via our contact form.

Watch these elements to monitor your sender reputation and ensure nothing goes too far south.

  • Bounces: How many of your emails are not being delivered at all, due to a variety of factors. You might see a hard bounce if an email address is invalid. A soft bounce can occur if a mailbox is full. 
  • Spam Trap Hits: Spam traps are emails you shouldn’t contact. If you hit one, you’re negatively dinged. Mailbox providers like Gmail will set up spam traps by creating email addresses themselves (which do not use it to fill forms, etc.) to see who is scraping, guessing at or otherwise doing sneaky things to acquire addresses.
  • Frequency: This is how often you’re emailing any or all of your recipients, such as twice a month. Some senders mail too frequently, leading subscribers to disengage or even complain.
  • Volume: The amount of email you’re sending every time you reach out to your lists, such as 5,000 emails each send. Sometimes you could try to send too much at once, and the mailbox provider will throttle, or slow down, the delivery.
  • Engagement: Whether people are interacting with your email when received, such as moving from the spam folder to the inbox, opening, clicking and so on. There is positive and negative engagement, so you’ll want good engagement like clicks rather than negative engagement like being marked as spam.
  • IP/Domain Reputation: This one is tricky, but associates with the channels on which your emails travel. You need an Internet Protocol (IP) address and a domain (i.e., @silverbackstrategies.com) to send any email. If you’re on a shared IP, the behavior of others using it can affect your reputation. In the case of domains, if you have a brand new domain, you have no reputation at all, and you need to take care in warming it. Warming closely follows a frequency-based approach to scaling up to your full volume over time.
  • Blocklistings: The kiss of (temporary) death. If you’re on a blocklist, depending on the importance of the list, you may not be able to reach anyone at all until you’re delisted. Unfortunately, delisting can be difficult to navigate, time-consuming and frustrating. Blocklisting is why you want to be knowledgeable, cognizant and proactive about all the concepts above.

Overall, though, the biggest factor in your email sending reputation is simply the actions you take when planning and executing an email marketing strategy. Thinking about all those factors above, are you following best practices? 

If you’re wondering what are the best email practices to follow, you’re not alone nor are you behind the curve. We’ll be covering the concepts and our advice in a months-long series to help you take control of your email deliverability for more digital marketing ROI.

Email in Digital Marketing

While you probably understand now how email marketing can be an important part of your digital marketing mix, we haven’t touched how they work together.

The biggest connection between digital advertising and email is…Data.

How are you finding potential customers? With the looming shift away from third-party data, connecting with prospects in a consensual manner is more important now than in the past. While you can no longer use pixels to track users’ movement around the web, you can develop engaging email programs to increase awareness, spur deeper consideration and ultimately, influence purchasing decisions.

Similarly, how do you know the data given to you is accurate? There are plenty of solutions to help you clean and verify your email data to ensure you’re not inadvertently ruining your reputation and hurting your ability to reach your audience. Even if a lead enters information into your website driven by Google PPC, you need to ensure the person provided a real email address before trying to contact them.

Another connection to email is content marketing. Using strong SEO principles and sound strategy behind elevating the topics you know your audience wants to know more about, you’re hopefully creating engaging content perfect for an email campaign. Better content creates better email, and better email creates motivated customers.

Conclusion

This is a lot. This is hard. It’s ok to feel overwhelmed by the complexity of deliverability. With this information, you’re knowledgeable enough to keep an eye on the things capable of cutting off a direct line of communication to your customers and prospects. Plus, you can now connect your digital marketing efforts on other parts of the internet to the direct communication you’re sending via email to create a cohesive approach.

We’ll keep explaining the important parts of deliverability so you can continue to improve and hone your email marketing skills to put you at the top of the inbox while your less-savvy competitors languish in spam. See you in a couple weeks!

Nicky Copland

Nicky is a writer and marketer with more than 10 years experience in various industries including email, retail, nonprofit and other very cool things.

Additional Resources