The deliverability black box – secrets revealed!

It seems for some reason that many people in the email marketing industry think of the profession of a deliverability expert as a black box or some kind of hocus-pocus. I have always found this type of thinking interesting because I personally have been extremely open about what we do and what effects senders delivery rates. As I look around the web, I feel like everyone else has been as well, so why is there this perception among marketers?

Obviously there could be an endless number of reason for this perception, and many of them probably stem back to the days when deliverability was just becoming an important topic of conversation. Back then, many people were unsure of what deliverability really was, they just knew that it was important and there were not a lot of people in the industry who were considered to be experts in the field. From there I believe ESP sales folks most likely used their in-house experts as a way to differentiate themselves from others, which continued this sense of only a few “experts” really understanding what deliverability really was.

So is this still true today? Personally I don’t think so because if you look at most delivery issues they come down to 4 things.

The Deliverability Black Box

  1. Unknown users — these are email addresses that are no longer valid and should not be mailed. If a sender has too many of these addresses on their list, the ISPs will look at that as though they either are not following best practices and cleaning their list, or they just don’t care about their users.
  2. Complaints — when a user marks your message as “Spam” or “Junk” that is considered a complaint by the ISPs and it is their best way to understand if users want your email. If you get too many of these they view that as people don’t really want your mail (even if they signed up for it) and they will begin to bulk or block your mail.
  3. Spamtraps — this is one of the most severe issues when talking about deliverability. A spamtrap is an email address that has either never signed up for any marketing messages (pristine trap) or an email address that has been closed and bounced as an unknown user (see above) for at least 6-12 months (recycled) and then reopened by anti-spam organizations to track if senders are keeping their lists clean. By hitting spamtraps, not only are you not processing your bounces correctly but if you hit a pristine account you would not have any type of opt-in for that account, which signifies to the ISPs that you are not following best practices.
  4. Engagement — this is the newest factor when it comes to deliverability and while not all ISPs are currently taking this into account, many of the top tier are, with others close behind. When talking about engagement many of the ISPs are looking at a number of factors including opens, read time, forwards, clicks etc. They are able to use the data that they can collect to see how often and for how long people are “engaged” with your campaigns, which means that as marketers we must ensure that our campaigns are relevant to the customers we are sending it to.

So remember, deliverability is not some black box or dark science, it is rather simply: keep your list clean, follow best practices and make sure that your content is relevant to your customers.

Good luck and good sending!

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