Articles & Tips

Deliverability 101

Email Deliverability is the term most commonly used to describe the complex process of getting email from a mailer to a viewer. There are many factors involved that affect whether or not it actually arrives to the intended recipient and all of which are usually classified under the term “Email Deliverability”.

The phrase is also used to describe how victorious you are at actually getting email delivered. You might hear bizz talk about “improving” your email deliverability, which means taking different measures to improve the quantity of people who receive/view the emails.

If you are not in the bizz and new to email marketing, you might question exactly how many factors could possibly be involved in getting an email delivered to an end user. You’d think to yourself- well I write an email, put in the address of the intended recipient and hit send!

If used for marketing purposes, these emails are going out to a multitude of recipients and in fact usually 20% will never even receive the email. If you never received it, how can you open or click on it? This is why email deliverability plays such a large role in effective marketing.

So you might ask yourself where does this 20% disappear to? The answer is: Bounces and anti-spam measures.

Bounces are thought of as an email that has for some reason been returned to the sender. It was sent, but quickly returned due to its inability to get through to the intended email recipient. Most of the time there are automated alerts that will let you know there has been a delivery problem (the bounce message).

“Bounces” for the most part will fall into one of two groups:

The first group is when you have a technical issue with the email address. If the address does not exist or is incomplete in any way you will receive a bounce. Email systems do not have the ability to correct any human errors, so you must always double check your addresses in order to avoid a bounced email. COI or confirmed opt-in is a tactic in which you can minimize these types of bounces. The difficulty here is getting the recipient to take action based after signing up at your site.

For marketing purposes people submit their email address to you. If this address is incomplete or invalid, it will inevitably bounce. An example of this would be a change of job where their email is deleted or someone forgot to add the .com, .net, etc. Permanent address problems are often referred as “hard” bounces. These types of bounces are expected.

The second group of bounces would be if there is a temporary technical issue impeding the delivery of the email- also known as “soft” bounces. An example of this would be a bad connection or the individual’s inbox is full. These types of bounces are handled differently according to the cause.
More often than not the system will store your message and try to send it again later. If it tries a couple of times and is still unsuccessful, it will usually shoot you back an automated message telling you this. These are called asynchronous bounces. In some instances you will not receive any notification at all.

Bounces are a discipline unto themselves, but for now it’s enough to know that technical complexities can interfere with delivery of email.

Anti-Spam Measures
Anti –Spam measure can be described as when the organization/system receiving the email (e.g. Yahoo, MSN, Hotmail, etc.) obstructs with the delivery of the email.

Due to the vast amount of unwanted emails on the Internet, these service providers have gone to great lengths to reduce the amount of unwanted emails or SPAM that gets through to people. There are many different instruments used to identify these emails as SPAM. So many in fact that we could write an entirely separate piece on.

If one of these instruments flags an email as SPAM it could very well be deleted undelivered or go straight into your Spam or Bulk box. This will deny the end recipient the opportunity to even see the email, as it was never delivered.

On top of this, many of the anti-spam measures are not fool proof. They could very well label a perfectly good email as spam which is also commonly called a false positive. False positives occur when a justifiable marketing email gets flagged by an anti-spam instrument.

Each email service provider has a different set of anti-spam measures in place to manage spam and deal with correspondingly. Hardly ever will you receive a bounce message like you would by sending to a non-valid email address. This makes it increasingly difficult to identify the root of many delivery problems or to even recognize there is one to begin with.

The aforementioned issues are just two of the reasons why deliverability not only plays such a key role in effective email marketing, but can also be such an annoyance to those in the business of email marketing.

Improving Deliverability
The only positive entity about bounces is that at least you know about them! As mentioned earlier, for the most part you will receive a message that explains the problem so you can in turn handle it accordingly.

You certainly do not want to be labeled as a spammer if you are an email marketer. Constantly sending email to an address that is non-existent is something that spammers do. Every time you do this you will be tagged one more time by the email system deciding whether or not to deliver your email. These systems will completely restrict you from delivering emails if you produce too many bounces.

  • The process of managing bounces is also referred to as list hygiene. You can see more on this topic by clicking here.

Anti-spam measures are meant to identify and reduce spam- not legitimate email. Dealing with anti-spam measures is a hot topic for email marketers, as we’d prefer to work hand in hand in reducing spam and not legitimate email. Neither marketers or ISP’s want spam to get through as this clutters peoples inboxes, gives a bad reputation to email in general and by default those who market to it.

Although there are many different methods of ensuring your emails are not tagged and rejected as spam, the email community has had to put up these blocks to reduce this problem.

In summary, in order to improve your deliverability you must send useful and relevant emails or permission based emails to those who have actually requested them. By managing the bounces and staying up to date on all anti-spam regulations you can successfully deliver your marketing materials.


Copyright © 2009 Global Resource Systems, LLC. All Rights Reserved